lørdag 22. august 2020

South China Sea: Asean states set course for Beijing’s red line

It’s like a fuzzy red line that China imposes on its weaker neighbours involved in the South China Sea dispute: protest all you like about the militarisation and artificial island-building, just don’t mention the international court ruling that rejected Beijing’s far-reaching territorial claims.

Until recently, the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) appeared to abide by this unspoken rule from the behemoth next door. Though the landmark award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in 2016 leaned in favour of the Southeast Asian claimants, statements from those countries’ leaders invoking the ruling against China have been few and far between. And while tensions often run high over Chinese maritime assertions, regional hand-wringing has never spiralled into full-on finger-wagging against Beijing’s decision to ignore the ruling.

The court’s decision, in a case brought by the Philippines, flatly denied China’s historic territorial claims to about 85 per cent of the South China Sea, which it demarks on maps with a nine-dash line.