Title: Removal of Chinese Barrier in South China Sea Raises Questions about Future Actions in the Region
The South China Sea, a contentious area known for territorial disputes, recently witnessed the removal of a Chinese barrier by the Philippine Coast Guard. Initial concerns over the act potentially leading to conflict subsided, as it was believed that the actions taken by the Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. were legally and morally justified, citing the barrier’s violation of international law.
This development has put the spotlight on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the situation. So far, no escalatory counteraction has been observed, prompting speculation about whether China will persist with aggressive territorial claims or seek a more rules-based coexistence.
Tensions in the South China Sea have been simmering since World War II, but a 90-minute naval battle between Chinese and Filipino vessels in 1996 significantly escalated the dispute. In an effort to mediate and address these conflicts, agreements such as the U.S.-China Military Maritime Consultative Agreement in 1996 and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2002 were established, temporarily easing tensions.
However, China continued to assert its claims while blocking fishing boats from other countries, and further exacerbated the situation by constructing artificial islands and military bases in the South China Sea.
In 2016, the Philippines lodged a complaint with an arbitration court in The Hague, which ruled in their favor, declaring China’s nine-dash line illegal. Despite the ruling, China disregarded it and further militarized the disputed territories.
The recent removal of the Chinese barrier by the Philippine Coast Guard holds significance as it occurred within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), well outside China’s EEZ. President Marcos Jr.’s actions may have been influenced by strengthened ties with Washington, including increased military cooperation under the leadership of President Joe Biden.
This renewed support from the United States may have given President Xi second thoughts about asserting territorial claims as boldly as before. The upcoming meeting between President Biden and President Xi at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is expected to be influenced by the developments in the South China Sea. The outcome of the meeting will undoubtedly shape future actions and strategies in the region.
As the removal of the Chinese barrier becomes a critical topic of discussion, it reinforces the need for international cooperation and adherence to established laws and agreements. The world will be closely watching the interaction between the two leaders, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the South China Sea disputes while avoiding any further escalation of tensions.