A Scary Scenario in the South China Sea by Dr. Erick San Juan

As the world awaits the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal (formed under the aegis of the UNCLOS) at the Hague, between Manila and Beijing’s claim in the South China Sea (SCS), the tension in the region is still very much felt due to occasional military exercises between the US and its allies.

Recently, US Assistant State Secretary Daniel Russell said that bilateral negotiations may not be the best solution at the moment to settle the regional dustup over the South China Sea. He added that the US is not neutral in the South China Sea dispute. “We adhere to international law.”

He said, “I don’t know anyone in the region who believes that a negotiated settlement between China and other claimants is attainable in the current atmosphere.” China has long been insisting that it resumes bilateral talks with the Philippines and other claimants over the maritime dispute as it undertakes large-scale reclamation on contested sea features.

(Source: Camille Diola, philstar.com August 2, 2015)

It is quite obvious that the US never promoted bilateral solution, only multilateral in solving the South China Sea disputes. Although the US wanted freedom of navigation in the SCS, it never considered other means but only that of multilateral talks among claimants and China. Some pundits stressed that in so doing, the Big Brother will always be in the picture when talks will commence among the claimants and Beijing. Although many support the same position that all stakeholders must be part of the solution, so thus the ASEAN.

But one will notice that both China and the US are doing things other than geopolitics, they use economics to soften the territorial disputes. After all, everything begins and end in economics.

As what Lucio Blanco Pitlo III said (member of the Philippine Association for China Studies (PACS) — The U.S. pivot or rebalance to Asia is poised to counter China’s growing influence in the region and offer countries an alternative from the exigencies of being too tied to China’s orbit. But with recent reports on defence cuts, geographic spread in multiple theatres, and opposition to a heftier defence budget that could put real substance to its pronounced commitments, many are concerned about whether the U.S. can muster the resources needed to effectively pivot back to Asia.

In addition, the much-touted economic pillar of the pivot, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to which the Philippines had expressed interest in joining, is still experiencing tremendous opposition within the U.S. itself and it remains to be seen when it will really take off. Meanwhile, China’s initiatives, notably the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) had been gathering pace and already counts in its roster of members staunch U.S. allies like the UK and Australia.”

Observers may expect “a possible softening of U.S. stance on the SCS in the run-up to President Xi’s visit to the US this month of September. A lot of items will surely be placed in the agenda and SCS may not even make it in the priority list given the wide range of more pressing issues, such as China-US Bilateral Investment Treaty, climate change and the threat posed by nuclear North Korea, that are up for discussion between the two powers. The possibility that the U.S. would enter a compromise on the SCS in order to get China’s support on other issues such as reduction of greenhouse gasses or opening more sectors of the Chinese economy to American investors is always an open possibility.” (Ibid)

China has been accusing US a lot of things, from the day it announced its pivot to Asia which boils down to China’s containment. But the real fear of countries in the region (and of the rest of the world) is the danger of escalating tension that can lead to a regional conflict and worst, a world war.

Although many of our countrymen don’t want US imperialism, they also don’t want the Chinese attitude of bullying and grabbing our natural resources and territory.

Carlo, a long time radio listener mailed me and said that the intrusion and bullying of China is a good reason to realign with the ‘devil’ that we know for our protection. He said that he’s quite baffled by China’s claim in the West Philippine Sea. “Despite historically, China never wanted to conquer or colonize another territory. It has been telling the world that China only wanted to reunite Formosa (Taiwan) to Mother China like Hongkong and Macau.” I can only infer that China is doing this to prevent US control in the ASEAN region. I believe that China knows that countries that have claims in the SCS could be pressured, their leaders bought and corrupted.

In these political chess game, according to Ricky Sobreviñas of the Worldwide Filipino Alliance, the big powers aggressive moves are predicated on what the expected reaction of their perceived enemies would be. “Miscalculation leads to the most tragic catastrophies and world leaders need to be resolute and decisive  because one false move could be tragic and dangerous”.

Yes, a really scary scenario especially to hapless people like us. God forbid.

(Dr. Erick San Juan is a prominent civic leader, a book author and a staunch anti-Communism advocate. He is one of the Most Outstanding JCI Senator of the World and the Asia Pacific, the first Filipino to receive such a prestigious award from an international civic club. He graduated from San Sebastian College with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce degree, and a Masters degree at De La Salle University and Ateneo Graduate School of Business. He is the author of Stuff Every Husband Should Know [Quirk Books 2011]and many other books.)

Updated: 09/03/2015 — 15:12:49