Shangri-La is defined as an imaginary paradise, exotic utopia, a faraway haven of tranquility.
Utopia and tranquility are perhaps the furthest thing from the minds of Asia-Pacific defense ministers when they get together this weekend in Singapore for the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue security summit.
Topping their agenda: what to do about China’s claim to 3.5 million square kilometers of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim parts of that area. China is building artificial islands it says are for navigation, scientific and emergency services, with “limited defense facilities,” according to China’s Ambassador to the U.S. The issue is expected to be adjudicated soon by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
No matter how the court rules, the United States and other Pacific Rim nations will have to deal with China’s likely refusal to accept a ruling not in its favor and the security issues that will follow.
How to Bridge the Divide over the South China Sea
Amb. Cui Tiankai – Bloomberg View
(the author is China’s ambassador to the U.S.)
The issues in the South China Sea revolve around territorial and maritime jurisdiction. China believes it is doing nothing more than maintaining and defending legitimate territorial claims and maritime rights….
China’s policy on the South China Sea has been grossly misperceived as a strategic move to challenge U.S. dominance in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Some people even go so far as to raise the idea of a so-called Asian version of the Monroe Doctrine. However, China believes that the concept of sphere of influence is out-of-date in the 21st century….
China-U.S. relations are too important for us to allow them to be hijacked by the South China Sea issue. We may have major differences, but we also share important interests…
The Choice for Asia in the 21st Century
Sen. John McCain – War on the Rocks
For too long, the nations of Southeast Asia were treated as objects in the game of great power politics. But no more. Acting together in ASEAN, Southeast Asia is setting the agenda for the region and for the world: knocking down trade barriers, protecting human rights, deepening security cooperation, and peacefully managing international disputes. The nations of Southeast Asia are earning a seat at the high table of global politics. But this pride of place comes with responsibilities, not just benefits.
The choice for Southeast Asia in the 21st century is not between the United States and China, as some would make it out to be. Instead it is a choice between two futures—one in which the rules-based order is upheld and its benefits expanded to ever more people in Asia, or a darker future that resembles the past in this region and the world, where might makes right, and bullies set the rules and break them.
Like Southeast Asia, China also faces a choice. No nation has benefited more from the rules-based order than China. In just a single generation, China has become an economic superpower and a major player in international affairs. No nation in history has risen so high, so fast, and in so many different dimensions. And no nation has been a greater advocate for China’s success than America. Let me repeat: No nation has done as much to contribute to what China calls its “peaceful rise” as the United States of America.
Dialogue of the Deaf
China’s building over the past three years of artificial islands on some much-disputed rocks and reefs has perturbed the littoral states and exposed the hollowness of America’s naval predominance. American might has not deterred the construction spree; and it is hard to see how, short of full-blown war, the new islands will ever be either dismantled or snatched from Chinese control….
In fact, despite sending warships on “freedom-of-navigation operations” near Chinese-claimed features, and having an aircraft-carrier group on patrol in the sea, America seems to be trying very hard not to provoke China too much. China is also anxious to avoid conflict. The prime concern of the ruling Communist Party is to retain power. As a way of losing it, fighting a war with America might be the most certain as well as the most catastrophic. Yet, at a time of slowing economic growth, the party increasingly relies on its appeal to Chinese nationalism. In this sense…“the very insignificance of the territories in dispute in the South China Sea may well be part of their attraction to Beijing.” Nobody expects America to go to war over a Spratly.
China’s New South China Sea Weapon: Super Coast Guard Ships
Robert Beckhusen – The National Interest
China’s coast guard is more muscular than most. Even combative. And China’s coast guard has one especially combative ship — the CCG3210, formerly known as the Yuzheng 310.
CCG3210 has influenced politics in the South China Sea, of which China lays claim to virtually the entire territory. In a recent example from May, the Indonesian destroyer Oswald Siahaan-354 shelled the stern of a Chinese fishing trawlerintruding in Indonesian waters near the Natuna Islands.
That Indonesia found it appropriate to deploy a heavily-armed destroyer to intercept a fishing boat is partly because of a more aggressive approach by Jakarta to counter Chinese intrusions. And it may be because of repeated close encounters with CCG3210, a 2,580-ton Chinese coast guard patrol ship armed with machine guns, light cannons and (likely) advanced hardware capable of jamming communications.