Security Council Update: Stale Mate in the South China Sea

By LITIA TUIBURELEVU, NEW YORK TIMES

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Members, permanent and nonpermanent, draft solutions to the tensions in the South China Sea.

BOSTON, 9.10am – In this morning’s press conference with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), permanent and non-permanent members gathered their ideas for how to resolve the brewing tensions in the South China Sea.

As expected, two of the most powerful members of permanent five, China and the United States, used the conference to get maximum air time. When queried on how each country hoped to solve the conflict, responses diverged. China began by providing a rather diplomatic answer in proposing a ‘multilateral response’ to create consensus between itself and other affected states. Such buzzwords about ‘compromise,’ too often used in United Nations negotiations, seldom produce concrete solutions. China swiftly qualified its rather broad response by maintaining an unwavering position to have their ‘9 dash line’ recognized.  A de-escalation process of the area’s militarized environment was their highest priority, as well as complete removal of the United States from the South China Sea. The latter is incredibly idealistic and hardly pragmatic in light of the US’s ‘pivot to Asia’ in the last decade.

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The delegates of Ukraine provides input into the discussion.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, China neglected to discuss whether their ‘compromise’ would involve a curtailment of its dominant position in the area. In recent years China has come under harsh international criticism for its its rising naval presence and the tenuous legal basis for its ‘9 dash line.’ Recent clashes between themselves, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Nepal has caused tensions to escalate to new levels. If actions speak louder than words, China’s rhetoric of compromise seems highly unlikely.

In response, the United States proposed that the only solution can involve ‘higher level forums’ arbitrating the conflict. At present the US (along with Japan) is recommending states engage in comprehensive discussions to improve the overall situation. Again, the finer details of exactly what such discussions and these ‘higher forums’ will entail, still exist in the ether. However, the US was quick to rebut China’s claim regarding their ‘invasive’ presence in the South China Sea, arguing that there are key geo-strategic interests allowing them to be there. The United States’ highest priority is to maintain regional order in adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) and respect for exclusive economic zones.

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Delegates chime in to offer their perspectives during this morning’s conference, however no concrete solutions are provided as of yet.

In summary, the UNSC remains in a permanent ping pong of back and forth debate of one state’s interests versus another. Members of the P5 are willing to talk with one another but remain stoic when it comes to their advocating their strategic geo-political interests. Neither China nor the US appear willing to relinquish any power they have in the region. As such, there’s a lot of chatter without much solution building.

 

 

 

 

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