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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Showing posts for "South China Sea"

ASEAN Kicks the South China Sea Dispute down the Road

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-China protesters hold a Vietnamese flag (top) and a Chinese flag with an image of the pirate skull and crossbones (bottom) during a demonstration around Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi July 24, 2011.

Anti-China protesters hold a Vietnamese flag (top) and a Chinese flag with an image of the pirate skull and crossbones (bottom) during a demonstration around Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi July 24, 2011. (Peter Ng/Courtesy Reuters)

In the wake of the recent ASEAN Regional Forum in Bali, both Southeast Asian nations and China celebrated the drafting of an agreement between Southeast Asian states and China to resolve South China Sea disputes peacefully. As Voice of America reported, American officials also hailed the deal:

“U.S. officials are expressing relief over the accord, which they say should ease tensions between China and several ASEAN member states including U.S. defense treaty ally, the Philippines.”

Of course, any dampening of tensions in the South China Sea, where there has been one incident after the next in recent months, is welcome. The Philippines, Vietnam, and China had been ratcheting up tensions, and some Chinese analysts even began talking of a “limited war” with Vietnam to teach the country a lesson about claims in the Sea.

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The South China Sea Steams Up

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters march with banners and placards during an anti-China demonstration on a street in Hanoi on June 19, 2011. Several dozen Vietnamese protested in front of the Chinese embassy and marched through Hanoi for the third Sunday running after Beijing sent one of its biggest maritime patrol ships into the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Protesters march with banners and placards during an anti-China demonstration on a street in Hanoi June 19, 2011. Several dozen Vietnamese protested in front of the Chinese embassy and marched through Hanoi for the third Sunday running after Beijing sent one of its biggest maritime patrol ships into the disputed waters of the South China Sea. (John Ruwitch/Courtesy Reuters)

It is summertime, and everyone is out sailing on the South China Sea. Unfortunately, the waters have gotten a bit choppy.  The Philippines and Vietnam, in particular, are riled up over China’s most recent demonstrations of assertiveness: Chinese vessels have reportedly been busy intruding into Philippine waters and cutting the cables of two boats under the flag of PetroVietnam. Both Vietnam and the Philippines have called for assistance from the international community to help rein China in.

At stake, of course, are the potentially vast oil and natural gas resources that many believe the South China Sea possesses. For decades, six claimants—Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and Brunei—have bickered and skirmished over who is entitled to what. Ancient claims of sovereignty run up against the Law of the Sea and Exclusive Economic Zones. Rhetorical and actual skirmishes have become a way of life. Indeed the situation has been far more dangerous in the past with live fire exchanged and fishermen or sailors killed.

What’s different now, however, is the context in which these conflicts are playing out. And this matters – a lot. Read more »

Who is Sengoku38?

by Sheila A. Smith

Yesterday, video of the collisions between a Chinese fishing trawler and the Japanese coast guard appeared on YouTube—sent from an account named Sengoku38. Six separate videos, for a total of 44 minutes of footage, taken apparently from the decks of Japanese coast guard vessels showed the tensions aboard as the Chinese vessel altered course twice to collide with two different Coast Guard patrol ships.

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Continental and Maritime in U.S.-India Relations

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

The Indian financial newspaper, Business Standard, has published my latest “DC Diary” column.  With President Obama landing in New Delhi this week, it seemed like a good time to ask why Washington and New Delhi remain so burdened, even imprisoned, by continental preoccupations.

To Americans, India can be a real jumble of contradictions.  It is a maritime nation—strategically situated near key chokepoints—but with a continental strategic tradition.  It is a nation of illustrious mercantile traditions but for decades walled off large swaths of its economy.

Much has changed, principally because rapid economic growth has allowed India to break from the confining shackles of South Asia.  India is again an Asian player, better integrated into the East Asian economic system.  And it has a growing capacity to influence the wider Asian balance of power.

So, here’s my question:  Given all that change, why are the U.S. and India so bogged down in (and over) continental Asia?

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Avoiding a Tempest in the South China Sea

by Joshua Kurlantzick

Two Chinese trawlers stop directly in front of the military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable in South China Sea

Over the past two months, the South China Sea, which always has the potential to be a flashpoint between China and nations in Southeast Asia, has indeed become a flashpoint – between China and the United States. Yet the tensions over the sea are more than a short term problem. Resolving the competing claims in the South China Sea will be a critical test of China’s emerging power and its ability to deal with its neighbors, as well as the United States’ ability to work with Southeast Asian states to manage China’s rise.

See my new expert brief on the South China Sea here.

(Photo: Ho New/courtesy Reuters)

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China’s Rise and the Contested Commons

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Aly Song

Is there a more interesting place these days than the South China Sea? It’s the locus of a full-contact diplomatic spat between Washington and Beijing. It’s an arena for some nasty finger-pointing between Beijing and Hanoi. It’s an issue that may well destabilize relations between Beijing and Jakarta. And it’s the issue that somehow managed to make Asia’s most lethargic regional organization—the ASEAN Regional Forum—a bit more interesting at last month’s ministerial in Hanoi.

But here’s something else that strikes me about the South China Sea: It’s going to be an arena that tests some important assumptions about China’s rise.

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