South China Sea Current Affairs

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US, Japan, India to coordinate China policies

United States, Japan and India have decided to coordinate policies in addressing China’s increasing maritime activities.

This decision was taken in first Japan-US-India trilateral meeting held in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.

It was attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Key facts

  • In the meeting, Japan has expressed strong concerns over China’s rapid ongoing unilateral activities which aim at changing the status quo in the South China Sea.
  • Japan also mentioned that China’s massive land reclamation projects followed by construction of a facility including for military purposes have further heightened tensions.
  • In the meeting, all 3 nations agreed that the rule of law should be observed and all international disputes should be settled peacefully to maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Three parties also agreed to launch a trilateral meeting of experts in order to enable joint rescue and relief efforts in the event of major disasters.

Comment

From the US perspective, the first Japan-US-India trilateral meeting is seen as part of its “pivot” toward Asia policy to counterbalance China’s influence in Southeast Asia  and in case for India it is considered as part of its ambitious Act East Asia Policy.

Background

  • Currently, China is involved in numerous territorial and maritime disputes with countries in South China Sea including Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Philippines and Taiwan.
  • In response to China’s unilateral actions, US has asked it to immediately halt its land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea.

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Japan and China hold first security talks after 4 years

Japan and China on 19 March 2015 held their first security talks in Tokyo after four years since the ties had worsened over a row over islands in the East China Sea.

In the security talks both nations agreed to keep alive and foster a nascent recovery in bilateral ties plagued by the legacy of Japan’s wartime aggression and a territorial dispute.

However, both nations failed to set a timetable for the implementation of a scheme designed to ensure real-time communication between their armed forces.

Background of East China Sea dispute

  • Sino-Japanese relations had worsened after China had claimed its rights over the group of tiny East China Sea islets.
  • The islets comprises group of eight uninhabited islands and rocks. They have a total area of about 7 sq km in China Sea and are controlled by Japan.
  • These islets are close to strategically important shipping lanes in this region and also offer rich fishing grounds. The region surrounding these islets is also thought to contain oil deposits.
  • China claims that these islets have been part of its territory since ancient times. While, Taiwan separately is also claiming its right the islands.

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China rejects UN mediation to resolve South China Sea dispute with Philippines

China has rejected UN arbitration to resolve the South China Sea (SCS) maritime dispute with its Philippines. China instead has asserted that this maritime dispute should be settled through direct bilateral negotiations.

China’s rejection comes before the deadline to respond to UN mediation sought by the Philippines to arbitrate its maritime dispute with China over the South China Sea.

China has alleged that Philippines is attempting to resolve the dispute through “compulsory arbitration” by the UN Convention on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), without exercising the option to settle it through direct talks.

China’s approach to UN’s mediation of border disputes

  • China has claimed that they have settled its land boundary disputes with almost all of its neighbours (except India and Bhutan) and has delimited its maritime boundary in Beibu Bay with Vietnam.
  • In this case, China has mentioned that they are defending their sovereign right to choose a means of dispute settlement of its free will.
  • China has even alleged that the Philippines is misusing “compulsory arbitration” to resolve this dispute.

Background

In 2013, Philippines had approached the UN, questioning China’s claims to the Spratly islands (called Nansha islands by China) and the waters around them. UN Arbitral Tribunal appointed to deal with the case had asked China to submit its counter-memorial before 15th December 2014.

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