China Urges Philippines to Make ‘Rational Choice’ Over Maritime Tensions

Syllabus:  GS-II, International Relations;

Subject: International Relations;

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests;

Issue: South China Sea dispute;

Context: China voiced growing frustration and anger with the Philippines’ unexpectedly bold tactics in contested South China Sea waters recently, warning its neighbour to “make the rational choice”.

Growing Tension:

  • Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard showed Chinese ships blasting water at Philippine boats this month, and there was also a collision between vessels from the two countries during tense clashes at flashpoint reefs.
  • China’s top diplomat warned his Philippine counterpart  that the two countries were “facing serious difficulties” and blamed Manila.


What is South China Sea Dispute?

  • The South China Sea dispute is a complex and long-standing territorial and maritime dispute involving multiple countries in the region.
  • The main claimants to the disputed territories and waters in the South China Sea are China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
  • Beijing has also been accused of deploying a range of military hardware, including anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles there, and ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision.

Where is the South China Sea?

  • The South China Sea is an arm of western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia.
  • Bordering states & territories: the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Strategic Importance:

  • This sea holds tremendous strategic importance for its location as it is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean (Strait of Malacca).
  • According to the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD)one-third of the global shipping passes through it, carrying trillions of trade which makes it a significant geopolitical water body.

Contesting Claims Over Islands:

  • The Paracel Islandsare claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
  • The Spratly Islandsare claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Philippines.
  • The Scarborough Shoalis claimed by the Philippines, China and Taiwan.
  • Since 2010, China has been converting uninhabited islets into artificial islets to bring it under UNCLOS (For example, Haven Reef, Johnson South Reef and Fiery Cross Reef).
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