When is a Rock Not a Rock?
diplomatic standoff between China and the Philippines that flared up two years
ago in a dispute over fishing rights at a tiny shoal in the
South China Sea is coming to a head after Manila decided to ignore
Chinese threats and sue Beijing in an international tribunal.
case marks the first time that an arbitration panel will examine
China’s contentious, and oft-disputed, claims to most of the South China Sea,
one of the world’s busiest byways for shipping and a potentially rich source of
oil and natural gas.
“The Philippines and other
regional states would gain a strong public relations edge,” making it easier
for beleaguered countries in the region push back against Beijing, said Caitlyn Antrim,
an expert on the Law of the Sea at the Stimson Center. Given China’s interests
in ensuring free navigation in more distant waters such as the Indian and
Arctic oceans, the case may force it to rethink its strategy, she said.
“At some point China will have to choose
either to fight for regional control, or global freedom of the seas.”
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