South China Sea Current Affairs

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China, ASEAN Countries Agree on Framework for South China Sea Code of Conduct

China and the 10 member of the ASEAN grouping have agreed to a framework of a legally binding code of conduct aimed at preventing disputes in the strategic South China Sea. Though the draft of the framework has been finalised, no details about the text of the framework agreement has been released. Also, no date has been given on which the full code of conduct is set to be adopted by the parties. However, all the parties have agreed to continue to constructively advance the negotiations and work towards the early conclusion of the code of conduct.

Background

China and the ASEAN members had committed to sign a code of conduct around 15 years ago. But the pace of the negotiations was slow as China claimed the South China in its entirety. ASEAN members like Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also maintain claims in the South China Sea. In the absence of the code of conduct, each country followed a separate document called the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which has a provision committing parties to explore ways to build trust and confidence based on the principles of equality and mutual respect. Last year, China was enraged by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague, the Netherlands, which in its ruling has rejected China’s claims to economic rights across large swathes of South China Sea in a case brought by the Philippines.

10 ASEAN Members: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

South China Sea

South China Sea is part of Pacific Ocean spreading an area of some 35 lakh square km with eight littoral countries / territories viz. China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. It is strategically located in the international shipping route that sees the passage of world’s half of the merchant ships. The sea is rich in energy reserves including petroleum, mineral and fishing resources. It is made of some 200 tiny islands, coral reefs, shoals, sandbanks etc. grouped into three archipelagos of Spratlys, Paracels and Pratas. The Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal are also part of South China Sea. Several countries have made competing territorial claims over the South China Sea. Such disputes have been regarded as Asia’s most potentially dangerous point of conflict.

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India offers tsunami warning system to SCS countries

India has offered tsunami early warning-system to South China Sea (SCS) countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines as part of soft-diplomacy.

India already provides earthquake and tsunami-warning alerts to several countries in the Indian Ocean neighbourhood, as do Japan and Australia.

Features of Tsunami early warning-system
  • Developed by scientists at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).
  • It warns concerned authorities of any large earthquake in the Ocean and threat it poses.
  • Uses mathematical model to estimate if an earthquake in India’s oceanic neighbourhood can result in a tsunami.
  • It sends out a series of graded warnings to warn officials of danger based on data received form sensors lodged on the ocean floor.
  • These sensors can measure actual earthquake signals and based on it generates warnings.
Concerns

The South China Sea (SCS) is a controversial region on which China exerting territorial rights over its large part. Some of these territorial claims have been challenged by Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. On this issue, India considers that all countries must abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which governs how countries must respect ocean boundaries and international waters of countries. India and China are signatory to this convention.

tsunami-alert-system

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China raps US over Asia interventions

China has rapped United States for its interventions in Asia as tensions are growing between the two powers over territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS).

In this regard, China’s Defence Minister has levied thinly veiled criticism at recent US involvement in Asia’s trouble spots.

China-US Issue

  • China has claimed its territorial rights over almost the entire South China Sea region while other countries Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have rival claims.
  • To support its rights, China also has built artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities the strategically vital South China Sea.
  • Earlier to oppose China’s moves, US had conducted freedom of navigation operations close to artificial islands built by China in the SCS as it pose a challenge to freedom of navigation.
  • Besides, it also had agreed to deploy a missile defence system in South Korea following repeated nuclear and missile tests by China’s ally North Korea.
  • US also has sought to “pivot” to Asia by increasing its military and economic engagement with countries in region which is seen as its move to contain China’s growing power.
  • In July 2016, an international Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in its pronouncement had ruled that China has no legal basis over the entire SCS. However, China has rejected PCA verdict.

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