Militarization of the South China Sea

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1 PASMUN VII 2016 GENERAL ASSEMBLY FIRST COMMITTEE DISARMAMENT & INTERNATIONAL SECURITY Militarization of the South China Sea Chair - Jessie Wu Pacific American School Model United Nations VII Annual Session Research Report Research Report Page 1 of 1

2 Forum: Issue: General Assembly First Committee: Disarmament and International Security Militarization of the South China Sea Student Officer: Jessie Wu Position: Chair Introduction Currently, six countries claim overlapping regions in the South China Sea. The countries in the dispute over the region are China, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei Darussalam. Due to the quarreling over the area and its islands located in the South China Sea, the military buildup has increased over the past few years in order to increase authority over other competing claims. Several vessels are cast out to seas, such as fishing, patrol boats, and naval ships. The increasing tensions have led countries to increase naval patrols and trade ships near the region while some have resorted to building up the artificial islands as military naval and aerial bases. Confrontations amongst neighbouring countries increase the likelihood of armed conflicts. China, with the highest stockpile of weaponry and ammunition, is currently claiming the largest portion of South China Sea. Countries are not just increasing naval patrols and economic trades in the region, but also building islands with the means of using it as an oil platform. Moreover, the ongoing dispute over the rightful claim of the non-artificial islands has created more conflicts within the region. Overall, the hostility amongst countries over the claims of the South China Sea has created concerns that the area may easily trigger conflicts along with other global consequences, due to the major economic trade routes at the region. Clashes have previously happened and were most prominent between China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Countries have furthered provoked each other by sending drilling ships to extract the oil within the region. Recently, the United States, one of the few states not from the region, has chosen to respond by sailing a guided-missile destroyer near the artificial islands. Protests within the countries have also reacted upon the increased militarisation of the region and their concern over their own safety. The issue has escalated to risks of the safety with countries within region causing countries build up their stockpile in retaliation. Some have speculated that the increased militarisation may even lead to an arms race in Asia, which is why immediate attention and responses should be called for to the issue. Research Report Page 1 of 13

3 Definition of Key Terms South China Sea The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, which borders from the Singapore and Malacca strait to the strait of Taiwan. The area s high abundance of fisheries, hydrocarbons, and natural gas, along with the area occupying approximately one-third of the world s shipping routes, has attracted several countries to view the sea as a major geopolitical advantage with great importance. Artificial Islands Over the past two years, militarisation increased as countries, especially China, have constructed islands within the South China Sea. Such islands are often built by depositing large sums of sand over existing coral reefs or expanding upon small uninhabited islets. With the existence of the artificial islands, countries have been landing military aircraft and building naval ports upon the islands. Testings of the landings have further provoked neighbouring countries on the claim of the region. The huge encompassment of the islands was called the great wall of sand. Nine Dash Line Currently, the Nine Dash Line is a map that shows the largest portion of the South China Sea that has been claimed, the claim was made by China, which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its province of Hainan. The map of the Nine Dash Line has been expanding recently after more artificial islands were built and included in the map. Caption #1: A map showing the South China Sea and the Nine Dash Line Research Report Page 2 of 13

4 Militarisation Militarisation is the process in which one nation decides to become equipped or increase themselves with military forces or defenses. United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) The UNCLOS is an international agreement that was meant to establish a series of legal measures and laws on the economic rights of nations based on their territorial waters and continental baselines. The convention is included in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which a state holds the rights to exploit and excavate of the region. Caption #2: A map showing UNCLOS country signatories: dark green regions are ratified countries; light green regions are signed but not yet ratified countries Background Information Territorial Disputes The main reason of the accumulated tensions amongst the neighbouring countries near the South China Sea is the territorial disputes and legal claims over the sovereignty of the sea and islands. The dispute can be traced back to the 1894 Sino-Japanese War. Historically, the area was not claimed prior to World War II, because, negotiations were between France and China. Vietnam, previously colonised by France, declared it as ineffective since France is no longer their representatives. Right after the end of the Second World War, China extended its boundaries in 1946 and started claiming the Paracel Islands. The act spurred unrest among the countries as it was seen as a possible threat to their sovereignty. Later on, with the events of World War II and the Cold War, nearby countries started recognising the importance of geopolitics. Furthermore, with globalising over recent years, more Research Report Page 3 of 13

5 countries wish to have economic advantages over others, leading to the quarreling claims over the region. United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) The UNCLOS has been signed and ratified by nearly all of the states neighbouring the South China Sea. However, territorial disputes have continued, especially over the Spratly, Paracel Islands, and the Scarborough Shoal. However, with the overlapping areas of the claims, along with the mixture of residents that are from the claiming countries, the degree of judging such areas continues to be difficult. In 2009, the United Nations received a diplomatic note from China regarding its assertion of sovereignty over the islands, with the division of territory illustrated upon the nine-dash line. China claims that the map was drawn according to historical maps, evidence, and relics that were found on the disputed islands. Therefore, proving the historical claims of China even before the colonial period of Vietnam. Despite the proposed evidence to the UN Secretary General, the map was not given the legality and sovereignty due to the disagreements among the territorial claimants and the violation of the UNCLOS. The constant controversy of the South China Sea islands did not stop China from continuing its claim for more territory, as in 2014 the country has drafted a new map with more territories expanding to Taiwan. Attempts of Negotiations Although the tensions amongst the neighbouring countries continued, negotiations and have been held to deal with the issues in order to build peace and stability. The countries mainly China, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei were able to create a common code of conduct to establish confidence within the region. In 2002, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China issued the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The declaration guaranteed countries that signed it to commit and follow the international law, along with the freedom to navigate within the region in order to avoid any economic interference. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea called for the establishment of a code of conduct within the region that is negotiated amongst parties. The entire regulations and the rules over the conduct of countries on the sea have not been completely negotiated yet. Experts and researchers stated that by strengthening the infrastructure of communications overseas, especially concerning military operations, the act can create clearer dialogues amongst parties. The concern was a response to the separately divided blocs within the ASEAN meeting in Disagreements were voiced over the methods in comprising. China was in favour of holding bilateral negotiations without any third party mediators. However, other countries were in favour of having the settlement being monitored by international third parties. Other comments upon the meeting were the US s warning towards Research Report Page 4 of 13

6 China s threat to isolate economically and diplomatically if disagreement were to occur over the issue. Increasing Military and Economic Presence Due to the fact that the disputes have not been settled, countries decided to increase their military by surrounding the region as a strategy to intimidate other countries. By doing so, countries are less willing to trust each other and reach out for negotiations. The area is vital for the economy as experts estimated the region to hold 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Not only does the South China Sea have the potential to cultivate into one of the biggest resource platforms, but the region has around $5.3 trillion of total trade passing by. Moreover, out of the $5.3 trillion of the total trade, 23% of are with the US. The high percentage of the US s trade near the region resulted in its concern over the instability if armed disputes were to break out. Not only would the accumulation of military weapons within the region result in high death tolls, but it may possibly result into a huge impact upon the global economy. With trade developing more across states and the decrease in oil wells, countries have increased their concerns over the instability near the region. Drilling Platforms and Military Expenses Despite the negotiated terms on the legal claims over the island. China has declared that it would start the building of military facilitates to host the military assets. Such stockpiles may be from combat aircraft to naval vessels and possibly even missile systems. Vietnam has previously found oil but used the Oil Exploration and Development Act of 1972 passed 4-year prior on the legal basis of excavating the land, whereas China did not. This is not the first time China has provoked hostile activities. In May 2014, China has begun drilling oil near the Paracel Islands, which is 120 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has called for an exclusion zone along with 40 Chinese navy vessels surrounding the platform as a mean for safety and the deterrence of any vessels unrelated to its operations. The incident has caused an uproar in Vietnam, both from its citizens and its government. Vietnamese citizens were rioting on the street, especially in the central and southern regions of the country. Previous unconfirmed claims of Chinese navy deliberately harming two Vietnamese exploration operation in 2012 has led to huge anti-china protests along the streets. The act has led to the evacuation of thousands of Chinese citizens for their safety and the deaths and arrests of a number of people. The party protested the drilling operation due to the possible threat of China s naval arms close to the Vietnamese borders. Coasts guards and patrols were address to intercept the operation and the escorting naval vessels. Both sides resulted in a stalemate, with multiple confrontations between the Vietnamese and Chinese vessels. One of the more severe damages during the dispute was the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat. Research Report Page 5 of 13

7 The establishment of the military facilities and the deployment of corporations to build oil rigs have further increased tensions between China, the Philippines, and especially Vietnam. Clashes between China and Vietnam have occurred before in 1974 and 1988, in which both sides have suffered several casualties and losses, including the killings of more than 70 Vietnamese troops. Violations of any maritime treaties have resulted in Manila calling China to the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (or the UN s Permanent Court of Arbitration) in January 2013, but China has declined to recognise the accusation of the arbitration. Despite the denial, satellite images have shown the construction of military airstrips in the Spratly Islands, along with witnesses to two military airships landing upon the artificial islands. Present Day Shift Over the years, claimants have not just only been militarising their stockpiles, but military corporations have been using it as a means of trade. After Japan s lift on military exports in 2014, Japanese companies have been proposing military offers over the claimant countries. Currently, corporations have been transferring defense equipment and technology to countries, such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, which have taken up a huge interest in it. The situation has turned as those who do not wish to directly confront the situation with military arms has now taken upon themselves in supplying those who do wish to confront militarily for economic purposes. The shift from direct confrontation has now included more factors and participants in the issue as the issue expands its possible impacts. Key Issues Lack of Legal Claim As stated earlier in the report, one of the major cause of the issue is the lack of sovereignty over the area. The South China Sea was considered as a free sea for all to sail through. However, the area was recognised as an advantageous geopolitical area, which resulted in the multiple claimants. Previous talks with members of ASEAN has resulted in the polarizing of views on the issue, along with increased hostility. Despite the mutual agreement over having a code of conduct amongst parties on the ASEAN countries agenda, no further plans or the negotiated terms have been declared. The delay has resulted in territorial aggression amongst the claimant countries while waiting for any future discussions concerning the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea has only ratified and guarantee the commitment of international law. This would include the freedom to navigate. This allows countries to militarise around the region and sail the sea without any violation of sovereignty, due to the lack of legal claims. The freedom to navigate has allowed countries to use as a loophole for further Research Report Page 6 of 13

8 methods in militarising near the region. With the absence of the legal claims of the islands, countries still hold the jurisdiction to pass throughout the region without violating international law. Subsequently, the number of vessels, along with the military stockpile, increased, as countries placed them near the region as a gesture of legal claim over the islands. Historical Evidence Most of the disputing countries have based off of their support for their claims by presenting historical evidence, such as relics, to show the island s previous inhabitants. The ninedash line was considered to be using evidence from centuries ago and considered an integral part of the nation. However, countries have considered the historical evidence as false since China has never claimed sovereignty over the islands prior to the 1940s. Whereas, Vietnam claims that it has documental evidence proving that it has been the longest authoritative figure over the Paracel and Spratly islands since the 17th Century. In contrast, the Philippines have previously made claims that due to the state being the closest to the islands, it holds the islands sovereignty the most. Asides from historical and geographical aspects, Malaysia and Brunei justified their claims by stating their EEZ falls within the region and acted accordingly to the UNCLOS. Military Treaties The increase in militarization over the past few years has led to the concern of more violent responses from future confrontations. If armed conflicts were to result from a nation, several states would have to pertain to defence treaties established in the Cold War. The U.S. has established treaties with several of the claimants where the U.S. is obligated to defend the nation from the military attack of China. The treaties were originally written during the Cold War to combat the threat of communism from China, and would give the military defence in return if such a military offence occurs. However, during the Cold War, the U.S. has signed several defence treaties across and some even overlapping amongst the claimants. One of the most conflicting ones is between Japan and the Philippines, in which, under the treaty, the U.S. is required to protect Japan if an armed attack occurred. Whereas the U.S. has also had a treaty with the Philippines calling for the mutual support if an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the parties. Such military treaties create a potential of involvements of third parties due to treaty obligations. The rising tensions create a higher risk in armed conflict breaking out and creating a more complex situation as increased parties are involved furthermore. Ignored Warnings In the past few years, militarising countries have disregarded warnings or the potential of an escalated conflict. U.S. president, Barack Obama, and Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter, had previously warned China of its increase in militarising the islands despite country s warnings. Despite China s statement of denying such claims, no elaborate explanations or made. Recently on January Research Report Page 7 of 13

9 2016, Vietnam have stated that China has disregarded the country s sovereignty when it landed a plane on one of the illegally reclaimed artificial island. If nations were to ignore the warnings of other nations yet received no punishments, other states may follow suit and continue the process of militarisation due to the lack of regulations. Despite the attempts of previous suits against other states, such as the Manila filing a suit to the UN tribunal of the violation of the UNCLOS when it started building the artificial islands, it is still up the sued state whether or not it is willing to be trialled. The overlook of threats has provoked further tensions amongst countries, as shown in the anti-china protests in Vietnam along with 90.1% of the Japanese population with unfavourable impressions over the last nine years. The ignored warnings also triggered corporations within states to trade more as countries strive to militarise without any agreement of such conducts; the act was demonstrated prominently when Japan donated Coast Guard patrol boats at an estimated amount of $110 million. Major Parties Involved and Their Views China Currently, China has been militarising the most out of all the claimants. The country has the highest amount of armed military personnel. It has often been accused of militarising rounding the region despite the regulations of the UNCLOS and EEZ. On the 10th Asia Summit in 2015, China s deputy foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin clarified the purpose of the country s construction program of artificial islands as an intention for public service. He stated that China has created the islands as means for assistance during a humanitarian or natural disaster, and urges all nations that the country would never militarise the South China Sea. China has recently landed planes on the artificials island to test the runways and was deemed as a possible retaliation over Japan s declaration in strengthening ties with the Philippines. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) The ASEAN countries have previously tried negotiating terms out for both sides to achieve peace. Despite Japan and the U.S. s express of disapproval of China heightening the tensions over the past few years, when China inserted military and political power in Several ASEAN member states have criticised China s attempt at creating Sansha city, an administrative body that established a headquarter on the Paracels islands claiming to oversee China s territory in the South China Sea. However, no agreement has been made concerning of the increased militarisation due to the polarising sides unwilling to admit to their actions. Vietnam Research Report Page 8 of 13

10 Vietnam is second ranked, followed after China, in the most armed conflicts concerning the issue. The country has had several casualties in 1974 and 1988, in which 70 Vietnamese troops were killed in the former and 60 sailors were killed in the latter. In 2012, the incident of the sabotage of two Vietnamese exploration operation boat was suspected and accused by the Vietnamese government, yet unconfirmed, to be conducted by the Chinese navy. Nevertheless, the suspicion has caused huge anti- China protests across the country as hundreds of protestors gathered in front of the Chinese embassy in Vietnam. The protestors have stated that they wish their protests can result in international pressure for both leaders to negotiate. In retaliation to Vietnam s accusation, China has blamed Vietnam of intrusion over its cooperation with multinational corporations, such as ExxonMobil and Chevron, in developing hydrocarbon assets. The Philippines The Philippines has been an active speaker on nations militarising, especially China. It has previously had a long standoff with China in 2012 when both accused each other of violating infringements and intruding in the Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines and Vietnam were both angered over the establishment of the administrative branch from China on the Paracels Islands. The frequent violations and presence in the area have caused the Philippines to call for a halt to any construction in the South China Sea. The satellite image of the built runway has also led to fear that it may lead to more militarisation. Currently, the Philippines has taken legal action and has called for China to come to court to stop China s militarisation. The state has officially renamed the region from South China Sea to the West Philippine Sea. United States of America The U.S. holds a huge concern over the militarisation of the region, since if a military conflict were to occur, it would hold a huge risk to loss of economic goods on the trade route. The country s obligations towards several of its defence treaty may also be seen as the U.S. provoking more tensions. In 2014, it has signed a defence pact with the Philippines called the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement. The agreement included increasing rotational troop presence in the country, engaging in more joint training, and having greater access to bases across the archipelago, including ports and airfields. The United States has deemed the Philippines as the oldest allies in Asia and has showed even more support when former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, referred to the region as the West Philippine Sea in 2011 during a joint press conference. Despite the claims from the U.S. that the agreement was not meant to intimidate China, it was accused by the Chinese government as the first country to engage in militarisation and not China. Timeline of Relevant Resolutions, Treaties and Events Research Report Page 9 of 13

11 Date Description of event China Marks South China Sea Claims 1947 China creates is legal sovereignty over the islands by creating the nine-dash line, and uses the map as a historical basis territorial claims. Oil in South China Sea 1969 UN reports have found possible energy deposits published by the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. The report sparked interest in the region, with China claiming the territory a year after the discovering in 1970 and the Philippines discovery of oil in Establishment of the UNCLOS December 10, 1982 The UN recognises the UNCLOS as a customary international law, but its vague wordings on the South China Sea has led to countries finding loopholes around it. Confrontation between China and Vietnam March 14, 1988 China sinks three Vietnamese Ships sparking countries to militarise in the case of any physical conflicts. ASEAN Code of Conduct November, 2002 After 6 years in negotiating, ASEAN countries agreed to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. This signals the first time of China agreeing to possible agreements on disciplinary over the region. U.S. Strategy in Rebalancing Power November, 2011 The U.S. has stated its attention to seeking more economic integration and reduction in militarisation with nations in the Australian parliament, speculated to be reducing China s monopoly and increased militarisation. Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement April 28, 2014 Cooperations between the U.S. and the Philippines were increased over the new treaty, offering increased military support. Research Report Page 10 of 13

12 Artificial Islands China has begun creating artificial islands to position closer the islands and had even landed onto the airstrips for testing purposes. Relevant UN Treaties and Events The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 10 December 1982 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties, November 2002 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, 28 April 2014 Evaluation of Previous Attempts to Resolve the Issue Although there have been several attempts, such as the establishments of UNCLOS and the ASEAN Code of Conduct, in achieving a consensus, whenever an agreement was made, a nation often violates it by using loopholes. For example, the code of conduct has not been finalised and ratified, nations have been using the delayed time to militarise and strengthen their presence throughout the region. Once a nation violates the agreement, other nations follow suit due to the lack of legal basis and loopholes in the vague regulations. In the case of the South China Sea, when a state militarises, other states follow suit in militarising also because that they are militarising as an act of defence against the growing state. The polarising states have also caused the failure of the last ASEAN summit over the discussion on the South China Sea. Such talks have failed due to China s method of negotiating unilaterally and without a third party while the rest of the claimants agreed to settle multilaterally with the supervision and meditation of a third party, preferably the UN. The UNCLOS has provided the legality basis for a country to be trialed over a violation of sovereignty. However, it depends on whether the nation agrees to be trialed in court and is often criticised for the vague phrasings within the convention. Furthermore, due to some of the claimants, most notably China, holding economic influences over each other, nations are less willing to file a legal case. Possible Solutions Currently, the main root of the problem is over the disputes on the legal sovereignty of the islands and resource deposits in the South China Sea that has led to the militarisation. Currently, resource sharing has been considered to slowly develop nations to cooperate together and build trust amongst Research Report Page 11 of 13

13 when splitting the resources. The method can also involve sharing economic benefits and including bilateral patrolling mechanisms, which can deter potential sources of conflict like illegal fishing and skirmishes coming from oil and gas exploration. The method of resource sharing marks an economic negotiation on the disputes of oil. Military to military communication is suggested to increase dialogue between forces, especially naval bases, in order to prevent the risk of conflicts. Military hotlines are recommended to facilitate maritime emergencies. The hotline systems would connect leaders in the event of a crisis that could arise from such mishaps as naval manoeuvers which may cause miscommunication and misinterpretations by captains. Lastly, joint naval exercises can support greater military transparency and help develop shared rules in supporting and adding in the code of conduct. Creating a notion on multilateral agreements would be encouraged as it provides more validity and holds international pressure towards states that do violate it in the future. The agreements should be encouraging nations to take legal actions on the court of international arbitration in order for fewer countries to be monopolising across the region, thus creating a more structural framework in preventing militarisation and motivation nations in demilitarising. Possible insurance over any risks in violating the agreed framework can be allowing states for a stronger and enforced appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Bibliography Cheng, Dean. "US Steadily Retreating In South China Sea Dispute." Breaking Defense. N.p., 29 Nov Web. 15 Jan < "China's Maritime Disputes." Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, n.d. Web. 15 Jan < Google-grant-infoguide-chinas_maritime_disputes-map#%2F&gclid=CNbug6P5-8kCFYUsvQodtpoNvQ%23historical-context?> Graham, Euan. "South China Sea: Conflicting Claims and Tensions." Lowy Institute for International Policy. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan < Kyodo. "Abe Raises South China Sea Dispute at ASEAN The Japan Times." Japan Times RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan < Mollman, Steve. "Japan Is Using South China Sea Tensions to Peddle Military Hardware in Asia." Quartz. N.p., 22 Nov Web. 15 Jan < Research Report Page 12 of 13

14 Panda, Ankit. "Military Facilities Aren't Militarization in the South China Sea: Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister." The Diplomat. N.p., 23 Nov Web. 15 Jan < "Q&A: South China Sea Dispute - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., 27 Oct Web. 15 Jan < Tiezzi, Shannon. "China Won't 'Militarize' the South China Sea -- But It Will Build Military Facilities There." The Diplomat. N.p., 16 Oct Web. 15 Jan < Valencia, Mark J. "Who Is Militarizing the South China Sea?" The Diplomat. N.p., 20 Dec Web. 15 Jan < "Vietnam-China Row over South China Sea Plane Landing - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., 3 Jan Web. 15 Jan < Research Report Page 13 of 13

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