Conflict with China-A A +A
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
NOT very long ago, we were most surprised to read in this newspaper that the Philippines was no longer referring to its claim of territories in the Scarborough Shoal in the same way that China did, hence it has a right to claim these as its own.
The territories are located just 200 kilometers west of the Philippines.
Efforts to settle the issue amicably has been the key theme of the Philippines’ diplomatic activity for many years now.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) was formed with the Philippines as one of the organizing nations with the threat from China’s claim of the Scarborough Shoal as the main motivating factor. Note that China’s claim is smack into the 10-nation Asean’s heart.
Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including the seas “approaching the coasts of neighboring countries,” and has been resisting moves that it feels might weaken its position in and political claim of the area.
Other countries in the region have long been seeking a sort of agreement with China.
But China did not seem to care.
The truth of the matter is that both sides of the conflict know that the area at issue holds within its bowels an untold amount of deposit in natural wealth that has long been “seen as one of Asia’s potential military flash points.”
And so China is said to have refused “to upgrade a 2002 'declaration of conduct’ into a legally binding code, instead preferring to negotiate individually with each country.” Perhaps, China believes in the saying “united we stand, divided we fall.”
This truism seems to affirm what China is really up to.
Many years ago, when the Philippine Writers Union was asked to have an exchange of visitors with an equally independent group of writers in China, I was one of those who joined the second group. I was able to visit their Tiananmen Square and visit its “Forbidden City.”
My itinerary included a visit to the Great Wall where I was made to walk on top of it for about a kilometer. On the way out of the city after three days, we were accompanied by a guide on a train to Shanghai, and then down to a city called Guillin
not far from the Hong Kong border.
My point in recalling this is that during the long non-stop train ride I had one night to Shanghai, I looked through the train’s window and realized that China, indeed, was a sleeping giant. What would happen to our part of Asia if it wakes up and decides to flex it muscle?
I remember writing about it when I returned. But that was a long time ago. And the situation may have already changed a lot.
But really, in the face of the present Beijing behavior in the sea that lies between us and China, I wonder where to search for peace.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 18, 2013.