Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mischief, part3

Mischief part3
The regional squabble over the Spratlys does not go unnoticed by the remaining world superpower, the US. It is in her security interest to maintain equilibrium in the balance of power and discourage hegemony in East Asia.
The East Asian quadrilateral -- the US, China, Japan and Russia that first surfaced in 1905 geopolitics has resurfaced after the Cold War tensions of Europe eased. Western Pacific rim tensions are developing into potential conflicts not just between China and the US but also between Japan and China, the two powers in East Asia, fuelled by the red-hot economic growth of China. The assembly of ASEAN countries further complicates the equilibrium.
Regional tensions focus on the Taiwan Strait, Korean peninsula and the South China Sea affecting the maritime dimensions of the regions security. Currently, the US-Japan security treaty provides security for Japan that does not disturb its neighbors. With the prospect of Chinese hegemony, Japan will likely resist and raise regional tensions. Thus, the US strategy would be to assist a rising China to integrate peacefully into the regional and global order. This includes the regional spat in the Spratleys and Paracels.
Widely acknowledged by scholars and policymakers alike is that economic growth lies at the center of China's national policy agenda. Chinese industrial and technology planning shifted away from the weapons-focused goals of the 1950s-70s toward a much more comprehensive effort, including demilitarization and an investment shift from heavy to light and high-tech industry. Some policy analysts predict that the debate about China’s defense policy increasingly centers on two themes: (1) long-range balance of power considerations in the Asian-Pacific region, especially the likely future role of the United States; and (2) the possibility that China might deploy its military forces to secure resources required for long-range economic growth.
To become both self-sufficient in energy and a dominant force in the region's macroeconomy, China must be able to guarantee sea borne access to resource supply and routes of trade. Naval modernization, in particular, has therefore taken on special resonance because of China's growing demand for energy. Debate about precisely how resource and territorial claims overlap has been particularly pronounced, for example, in discussion of China's goals in the South China Sea, where balance of power considerations clearly matter a great deal but where China's "step-by-step" advance to the Spratly Islands also raises questions about how a hedge against resource dependence may fit into Chinese strategic calculations. Most major sea-lanes of communication for East Asian energy shipments lie in these waters. As U.S. naval dominance is likely to remain unchallenged for decades to come, many of China's goals in the region can probably be met simply by "free-riding" off the U.S.-dominated status quo.
As the political scientist Robert Ross noted, U.S. strategy in Asia since the end of the Vietnam conflict in 1975, has involved de facto maritime balancing against both Chinese and Soviet continental power. "From Japan in Northeast Asia to Malaysia in Southeast Asia, the East Asian mainland is rimmed with a continuous chain of island countries that possess strategic location and naval facilities,” he observed . Access to these countries enables a maritime power to carry out effective naval operations along the perimeter of a mainland power. It also prevents continental powers that have maritime aspirations, such as contemporary China, from developing unimpeded access to the blue water ocean.
In effect, the requirements of such a strategy grant the U.S. navy the ability to secure access for the U.S. and its allies to strategic resources, including oil. This also gives the U.S. a special role as the systemic guarantor of secure shipping lanes. Thus, "even should China develop naval capabilities in its coastal waters, U.S. and allied commercial and military fleets could use secure shipping lanes that are far from mainland aircraft and are dominated by U.S. air and naval forces based in maritime nations."
Even if China wishes to enforce its claims in the South China Sea for reasons of sovereignty, the region provides few jumping off points from which China would be in a position to build strategic power projection capabilities that might challenge the U.S.-dominated maritime system. The Spratly Islands are simply too small to serve as a stepping stone to further power projection. This reduces their strategic value for anything more than an assertion of localized claims. Does it truly threaten the underpinnings of the regional strategic balance if China were to occupy the Spratlys? In light of how little a claim such as Mischief Reef would likely contribute to a Chinese challenge to American maritime balancing, the answer is probably: very little indeed.
In effect, de jure recognition of Chinese sovereignty over the area could actually be stabilizing over the long term. It would at once defang rabid Chinese nationalist sentiment by satisfying a Chinese sovereignty claim, while at the same time, in practice, giving China very little of substance with which to challenge the security of Asia's sea lanes.
HB 3216
The House of Representatives passed HB 3216 which includes both Scarborough and Kalayaan Islands within the baseline. MalacaƱang warned that if passed into a law that version would create problems because if we use that to measure our claim for extended continental shelf, the deadline at the UN being on May 13, 2009, it would be rejected for not being UNCLOS-compliant. If rejected, that means the international community would also not recognize our jurisdiction over those maritime areas. (Note: there is no deadline for the filing of a country’s archipelagic baseline; we can deposit it anytime with the office of the UN secretary-general and at the UN International Maritime Organization in London. The deadline that we are trying to meet is the filing of our claim for extended continental shelf which is on May 13, 2009. However, to determine our Extended Continental Shelf from 200 to 350 nautical miles sub-ocean extension of land, we need an official baseline.)
As Henry Bensurto, of the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs said, “There would be a lot of foreign ships in those areas. At which point is our Navy going to sink those foreign ships if you don’t have a clear line?” Review the Doctrine of innocent passage, Mr Bensurto.
Meanwhile on March 28 Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. lifted the intact House Bill 3218 to speed up its passage in time for the May 2009 deadline. However, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairperson of the Senate foreign relations committee, objected to the bill as this would declare the Philippines as an archipelagic state, which would reduce rather than extend the country’s territory. Santiago, warned that the Constitution had already defined the national territory and any attempt to declare the Philippines as an archipelagic state under the UNCLOS would require Charter change, “because it would reduce the national territory. The Constitution states that the national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction. The Constitution does not describe the Philippines as an archipelagic state, which is a term of art used by the UN Convention.”
The senator said that if the Philippines declares itself an archipelagic state, it would contradict the Treaty of Paris that set out the boundaries of the country’s national territory, “which are wider than those allowed by the UNCLOS.”
In conclusion, the Spratlys storm in a teacup and its effect on our territorial claims under UNCLOS is securely tied to the hegemony of the US in the Pacific and Indian Oceans
Since U.S. naval dominance of Asia’s sea-lanes is likely to remain unchallenged in terms of capabilities-- by a continental power such as China--for several decades, we must act accordingly. For a weak nation like the Philippines which is decades short of first world status even by an Arroyo dream, this situation demands fawning and groveling to the prospective US Presidential candidate of 2008, a Republican right wing conservative, and hope he wins. Even better, activate kamaganak influence in the US elections for Fil-Ams to vote Republican. A Democrat President will be bad news for the Kalayaan Islands that may go the way of the Sabah claim.

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