Sorting American Priorities In The South China Sea – Analysis

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by lambu, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. lambu

    lambu Regular Member

    Jul 15, 2010
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    The security situation in the South China Sea is deteriorating in a way unseen since the mid-1990s. And given the growth in China’s military power and global influence since then, it is a much bigger problem for the United States. China’s challenge in the South China Sea—its expansive extralegal claims to maritime territory—demands a strong, clear, interest-based response.

    U.S. Interests

    American interests in the conflict are, in order of priority, as follows:

    1. Freedom of the Seas. This is a bedrock, non-negotiable interest of the United States. The U.S. is the world’s preeminent seafaring nation. When it comes to the South China Sea—through which half of global shipping and most of Northeast Asia’s energy supplies transit—its position is consistent: All nations enjoy navigational rights and freedoms there that are qualitatively and quantitatively the same as those applicable on the high seas.

    2. Treaty Ally in the Philippines. The U.S. has wisely refrained from taking a position on the details of the six-sided South China Sea sovereignty dispute. But that does not mean it is neutral. It has legal security obligations toward one of the claimants. The 1951 U.S.–Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty obliges the U.S. to “act to meet the common dangers” embodied in an attack on the territory of the Philippines or “its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

    What constitutes Philippine territory in the context of the treaty is not entirely clear. Seven of the islands in dispute constitute the Kalayaan municipality of Palawan Province that is home to hundreds of civilians. It also bears noting that at least two of the recent incidents—at Reed Bank and Amy Douglas Bank—have occurred closer to the Philippine islands proper and within its main Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

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    Sorting American Priorities In The South China Sea - Analysis

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