DESPITE THEIR SOLEMN VOWS TO RESOLVE disputes over the South China Sea peacefully by directly related parties, two of China’s neighbors, the Philippines and Vietnam, have been busy making more trouble lately. By repeatedly going back on their own word, they not only put their own credibility at stake, but also erode the political trust between them and China.
Both have also made clear they are trying to invite outside forces into the issue as a bargaining chip. Such attempts are doomed to fail, too.
In a forum involving specialists from around Southeast Asia in Manila on Thursday, the Philippines put forward a proposal for avoiding future conflicts in disputed waters of the South China Sea. The meeting was attended by Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who said the proposal was to make the disputed area a zone of peace, freedom, friendship and cooperation.
However, behind the high-sounding remarks, Manila is trying to internationalize the issue and carve up the South China Sea in disregard of China’s sovereignty, instead of adhering to its agreement not to complicate the issue.
Manila proposed dividing the Sea into disputed and non-disputed areas based on exclusive economic zones. Claimant countries could carry out exploration in undisputed areas, while the disputed areas would be subject to joint cooperation.
It does not take a legal expert to conclude that the proposal is rife with loopholes. With several countries claiming whole or partial sovereignty over the waters, the attempt to plot one’s own exclusive economic zone does not conform to international law.
For its part, Vietnam is involving India in the disputes through a joint exploration project tapping oil resources in the disputed waters. India has rejected China’s opposition to the project, claiming it follows international regulations.
China opposes any form of interference from outside forces into its maritime disputes with some Southeast Asian countries. It hopes countries outside the region respect and support countries in the region to solve the problem through bilateral channels.
What the Philippines and Vietnam have done indicates they do not take China’s stance seriously. They also do not take seriously their own vows to avoid exacerbating the disputes and advance bilateral ties with China.
Hence, should China’s goodwill in maintaining friendly ties with the two countries continue to be exploited, such caprice will be remembered.