Cooling the tempers over Spratlys
With the ongoing positioning by claimant parties in the contested waters of the South China Sea as backdrop, the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs is holding a two-day conference on the South China Sea that should temper the tension among affected parties.
The conference to be held on July 5 and 6 at the Dusit Hotel in Makati will have as its theme, “The South China Sea: Toward a Region of Peace, Cooperation, and Progress.”
The FSI is partnering with the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and the National Defense College of the Philippines in this conference that will bring in experts on the South China Sea.
Among those in the list are Prof. Carlyle A. Thayer of University of New South Wales in Australia who will speak on “Security Cooperation in the South China Sea: An Assessment of Recent Trends”; Dr. Tran Truong Thuy, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam who will speak on “Recent Developments in the South China Sea and Implications for Regional Cooperation”; and Dr. Shen Hongfang, Xiamen University who will speak on ” South China Sea Issue in China-ASEAN Relations: An Alternative Approach of Reducing the Tension.”
Prof. Peter Dutton, China Maritime Institute of the Naval War College (USA), will talk on “The Implications of South China Sea Disputes for Regional Security Cooperation and the Japanese perspective will be presented by Mr. Tetsuo Kotani, Okazaki Institute.
There are many more big-name speakers including Filipino experts on the issue like Aileen San Pablo-Baviera, University of the Philippines and Renato De Castro, De La Salle University.
It would be interesting to hear Thayer‘s updated assessment of the situation in the South China Sea. In his paper presented last June 20 in a Conference on Maritime Security in the South China Sea, sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C , he said there are two major drivers that explain “China’s New Wave of Aggressive Assertiveness in the South China Sea”: sovereignty and hydrocarbon resources.
Highlights of Thayer’s conclusion:
• China’s recent aggressive assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea has raised the security stakes for Southeast Asian states and all maritime powers that sail through these waters. Ensuring the security of the South China Sea is now an international issue that must be addressed multilaterally by all concerned states.Three major incidents mark the new wave of Chinese aggressive assertiveness.
• ASEAN and the international community, both of which rely on transit through the South China Sea, must diplomatically confront China over its aggressive assertiveness.
They should bring collective diplomatic pressure to bear on China at the forthcoming annual meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit to be held later this year to honor its commitments under the DOC (Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea)
• Both the Philippines and Vietnam should take steps to enhance their capacity to exert national sovereignty over their EEZs. Their weakness only invites China to act more assertively.
• Every effort by the international community toward peace and stability in the Eastern Sea is welcome. It is in the interest of the United States and its allies as well as India to assist both nations in capacity building in the area of maritime security.
At the same time this “coalition of like‐minded states” should back ASEAN in its efforts to secure agreement on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.
ASEAN members themselves could draw up a Treaty on Conduct in the South China Sea, and after ratification, open it so accession by nonmember states.