S. China Sea casts shadow over opening of US-China talks

President Xi Jinping said China and the US need to trust each other more as both sides sought to minimize tensions over the South China Sea at the opening Monday of key annual talks in Beijing.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea despite competing claims by several Southeast Asian neighbors, and has rapidly built artificial islands suitable for military use.

Washington has responded by sending warships close to Chinese claimed reefs, angering Beijing.

“China and the US need to increase mutual trust,” Xi said at the opening of the annual strategic dialog, calling for redoubling of efforts for the two powers to manage conflicts and avoid “strategic misjudgment.”

“Some disputes may not be resolved for the time being,” he said, but both sides should take a “pragmatic and constructive” attitude toward those issues.

“The vast Pacific should be a stage for cooperation, not an area for competition,” he said.

Speaking for the US, Secretary of State John Kerry called for a “diplomatic solution” to the problem.

“We are looking for a peaceful resolution to the dispute in the South China Sea and oppose any country resolving claims through unilateral action”, he said, referring to China’s increasingly agrressive expansion in the area.


The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the South China Sea, which encompasses vital global shipping routes and is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits.

Manila accuses China of taking effective control of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and has brought a case against Beijing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. China has shunned the proceedings and says it will not recognize any ruling.

‘Provocative act’

The Beijing talks follow an Asian security summit at the weekend where US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that Chinese construction on the shoal would prompt unspecified “actions” by the United States and other nations.

Following Carter’s comments at the Singapore meeting, Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo said the issue had become “overheated” and said China did not fear “trouble” over its territorial disputes.

Tensions mounted after the South China Morning Post reported last week Beijing could establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the sea — which would require civilian aircraft to identify themselves to military controllers.

Such a move would be considered “a provocative and destabilizing act”, Kerry said on a trip to Mongolia Sunday.

The Beijing dialog is perhaps the most important meeting between the world’s two largest economic and military powers, giving them a chance to seek agreement and iron out disputes on a range of issues related to security and economics.

Both countries promote the event, known as the Strategic and Economic Dialog, as an opportunity to move forward issues, such as global warming, where they find easier agreement.

But the discussions are often defined by points of conflict, with increasing tensions in the South China Sea promising to overshadow this year’s efforts to focus on the positive.

‘Keep the pressure’

The meeting is the eighth of its kind and is set to cover a number of key issues beyond the South China Sea, including climate change, cyber-security, terrorism, trade and economic cooperation.

Among those is the question of how to handle North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, an area where Kerry said it is “imperative to keep the pressure.”

The North staged its fourth atomic test in January and launched a long-range rocket a month later — widely seen as a ballistic missile test, banned under existing UN resolutions.

Beijing is Pyongyang’s largest trading partner and has been its key diplomatic protector for decades. It is seen as a critical element in any plan to convince North Korea to change its behavior.

China has seemingly lost patience with North Korea’s behavior, and it played a critical role in pushing a recent round of sanctions through the United Nations.

RP’s arbitration move

abuses int’l laws

In Berlin, the Philippines’ assertion concerning the South China Sea abused the international law and the United States’ interference is only a show of hegemony that does no good to anybody, Chinese overseas scholars said Sunday at a seminar in Berlin.

The seminar, themed “The South China Sea Issue: China’s Stance, International Voice”, gathered several Chinese overseas scholars in Germany, The Netherlands and other European countries.

It was also attended by more than 50 representatives of Chinese students studying in Berlin, Chinese enterprises and overseas Chinese living in Germany.

Noting the South China Sea case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in 2013, Qiu Rungen, visiting scholar at Berlin’s Humboldt University and an expert on international economic law, said that such an arbitration, though deliberately wrapped up, actually violates the legislative purpose of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS) and its juridical logic.

In fact, China and the Philippines have agreed in bilaterally-signed documents to settle maritime disputes through dialogs and negotiations. Additionally, China made a declaration in 2006 that excluded a compulsory arbitration under Article 298 of the UNCLoS.

Given these facts, Qiu said that China’s assertion of neither accepting nor participating in the SCS arbitration is not only fully in line with the UNCLoS but also meets the basic legal principle of international laws.

It’s evident that the Philippines has abused the legal procedure to initiate the unilateral arbitration and the international tribunal’s jurisdiction over the case was marred with nomological bias, said Luo Gang, a doctoral student who specializea in international law in Germany.

The South China Sea international arbitration tribunal in The Hague announced its jurisdiction over the case in October 2015, and prepares to deliver a ruling in the next few months. However, the combination of the tribunal and its judging process are questioned by a number of Chinese and international scholars.

The US role messing up the maritime dispute was also discussed by the Chinese scholars.

The United States has made a series of harsh rhetoric on the issue issue, mostly accusing China of threatening the freedom of navigation, while it itself exercised several military operations by closely flying or sailing past South China Sea islands, violating China’s sovereign rights and adding tension to the region.

The arbitration case shows that the United States cannot tolerate the rise of China and has fancied China’s development a challenge to the America-dominated international order, Humboldt University Law doctoral student Li Ke pointed out.

Source: Tribune