BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest key developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.
SPEAKING AT THE UN, VIETNAM OFFICIAL CALLS FOR RESTRAINT ON SOUTH CHINA SEA ISSUES
Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh on Saturday called on all parties involved in South China Sea territorial disputes to exercise self-restraint and solve disagreements by peaceful means.
Pham, addressing the United Nations General Assembly during its annual ministerial meeting, said parties should abide by international law, including the U.N.’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, and respect diplomatic and legal processes.
The issue of ownership of territories in the South China Sea has become heated in recent years. China claims virtually the entire sea as its own, citing historical reasons. That has pitted it against Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier this month at a meeting with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that a ruling on July 12 by an international arbitration panel in the Hague, Netherlands, against China was binding and “helped to clarify maritime rights in the region.”
US, PHILIPPINES HOLD FIRST EXERCISES UNDER NEW PRESIDENT DUTERTE
Philippine military officials on Thursday announced the first large-scale combat exercises between U.S. and Filipino forces under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been critical of American security policies.
Military officials said the annual maneuvers by about 1,400 U.S. military personnel and 500 Philippine marines will involve amphibious landing and live-fire exercises at a northern gunnery range from Oct. 4 to 12.
Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S. and has taken steps to revive ties with China, which were strained over South China Sea conflicts.
He repeated in a speech Thursday that he would not allow Filipino forces to conduct joint patrols with the U.S. military in the South China Sea because that could spark an armed conflict in Philippine territory. He has also said he wants U.S. forces out of the country’s south, where he said minority Muslims resent the presence of American troops.
Still, Duterte has said he will not abrogate the mutual defense treaty with the U.S. and will maintain the long alliance with America.
TAIWAN PROTESTS EXCLUSION FROM INTERNATIONAL FISHING CONFERENCE
Taiwan on Wednesday protested its exclusion from a United Nations conference on the fishing industry, allegedly at the behest of China.
Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported late Wednesday that the Foreign Ministry delivered a letter to the Food and Agricultural Organization protesting what it called “discriminatory treatment” against two Taiwanese representatives who were barred from the organization’s fisheries meeting in Italy.
It said China, which claims Taiwan is part of China, was behind their rejection but did not say how that information was obtained.
Taiwanese representatives had participated in the biennial conference since 2003 as experts or members of non-governmental organizations. As an island with a major deep-sea fishing industry, Taiwan had argued that its presence at the conference was appropriate and necessary.
China has long used its diplomatic influence to isolate Taiwan, but has increased those efforts since its new independence-leaning president, Tsai Ing-wen, took office.
Taiwan formally exercises an overlapping claim with China to almost the entire South China Sea, although it occupies only one island in the dispute Spratly chain and has not directly challenged the claims of other countries involved.
OBAMA URGES PEACEFUL RESOLUTION OF SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTES IN SPEECH AT UN
In a speech Tuesday at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, President Barack Obama urged countries to follow international legal precedents and avoid building up military forces in the area.
“In the South China Sea, a peaceful resolution of disputes offered by law will mean far greater stability than the militarization of a few rocks and reefs,” Obama said in his address to world leaders and others gathered for the annual meeting.
As he looks toward leaving office, Obama is seen as having made a final attempt in September at outreach in the Asia-Pacific, hoping that the much-vaunted U.S. “pivot” to Asia will be enough to cement traditional alliances and thwart attempts by China or others to topple America as the region’s premier military power.
During September, Obama participated in both the G-20 summit of industrialized nations in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou and the ASEAN meeting in Laos.
China’s growing economic and political influence weighed heavily on both events, putting any future successor in the White House on notice that Beijing will be quick to take up any perceived lapse in attention to the region on the part of Washington.