By Gil H. A. Santos
NOW, CHINA’S MOVE….
So the Philippines, a couple of weeks ago, has formally demanded in the United Nations arbitration court to declare that China’s occupation of disputed South China Sea territories are illegal under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) that China signed, ratified and committed to honor.
Immediately after the Manila government filed the petititon, Beijing arrogantly claimed the Philippine petition is “baseless” and that any settlement of the territorial dispute will be done bilaterally. China will never agree to any international court settlement.
Specifically, these are the resources-rich islets, shoals and reefs within the 200 nautical mile special economic zone of the Philippines covered by the UNCLOS but on which the Chinese had built military communication facilities and barracks over the past decade. Under the seabed of these areas is oil China wants so badly that it pushes Beijing to bully its small and comparatively powerless nations–Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
A Chinese submarine in the past even cut off seismic lines from a Vietnamese scientific exploration ship off the Spratley Islands –within the 200 nautical mile special economic zone of Vietnam—which Beijing claims.
Filipino businessmen and students of international relations openly admit the Philippines cannot match China’s expanding armed forces that has flaunted its first aircraft carrier and stealth jet fighter-bomber aircraft in an obvious move to show its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbors who is boss around here.
And they ask about the chances of a relaxation of the geopolitical-military tension in this part of the world, fueled by the Chinese military arrogance against the South Koreans, the Japanese, Taiwan and the ASEAN members. What will the Chinese do next?