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The Inevitable Clash Between China & ASEAN Nations Over The South China Sea

With the ASEAN countries busy dealing with the COVID-19, China has taken advantage of the situation and has used this opportunity to forward its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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China’s ties with the ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations over the South China Sea is at a critical stage. The ASEAN region is crucial to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – the dream project of President Xi Jing Ping but ongoing disputes over the crucial South China Sea between US-backed ASEAN has only complicated the matter. 

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ASEAN nations have often criticized aggressive Chinese activities and plans in the South China Sea (SCS) as Beijing attempts to strengthen its grip on the disputed territories.

As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, the South China Sea is a key naval passage linking Asia with Africa and Europe. As estimated $3.37 trillion of international trade passes through the SCS and it is believed to be abundant in untapped natural resources such as oil and gas.

China lays claims to 80% of the SCS. It is also claimed by Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei all of who form the part of the ASEAN nations. Other members of the ASEAN includes Cambodia,  Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

ASEAN Nations vs China Over South China Sea

With the ASEAN countries busy dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, China has taken advantage of the situation and has used this opportunity to forward its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Last month, China established two districts to manage – the Spratly Islands and Paracel. According to reports, the two new districts will be under the authority of the local government in Sansha, a city in Hainan.

The new districts will govern the Paracel and Macclesfield Bank – an area claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan – and the Spratly Islands and their adjacent waters, where there are multiple overlapping claims from the Philippines, Malaysia and even Brunei.

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Prior to this, the Chinese had named and effectively claimed 80 geographical features in the SCS. According to reports, this includes “25 islands, shoals and reefs, and 55 undersea mountains and ridges”. But the Chinese actions have not gone unnoticed and have drawn criticism and protests by most of ASEAN members including Vietnam, Philipines and Malaysia.

Chinese provocative actions drew immediate criticism from Vietnam. Vietnam currently occupies 13 of the reefs in the West. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Le Thi Thu Hang said that the move had “seriously violated” Vietnam’s sovereignty.

On April 2, a Vietnamese fishing vessel sunk after colliding with a Chinese coastguard ship near Parcel Islands. The sailors on board were rescued by the coast guard but the Chinese denied any wrongdoing.

Surprisingly, Vietnam got support from the Philippines, as they remembered the event in June 2019. In this incident,22 Filipino fishermen were left floating in the high seas when a Chinese vessel rammed and sank their boat at Reed Bank. Vietnam immediately came to the rescue saving the men adrift in the seas.

Vietnam also sent a diplomatic protest note to the UN over China’s illegal claims over the South China Sea. Le Thi Thu Hang emphasised that ‘Vietnam asserts its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos in the East Sea in accordance with international law’.

The Philippines, another ASEAN member, has seen massive investments from Beijing in the country but remains dissatisfied by the Chinese antics. The Philippines also opposed China’s establishment of two districts to govern Parcel and Spratly Islands.

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In the latter, China has turned seven reefs, including Fiery Cross, into missile-protected island bases, including three with runways. The Philippines has a presence on at least nine islands and islets in an area it claims in the Spratlys.

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement objecting to what it called China’s “illegal designation” of Fiery Cross Reef as a regional administrative centre in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago.

“The Philippines calls on China to adhere to international law,” the department said, reminding Beijing of a 2002 agreement that urged all governments involved in the SCS dispute to exercise self-restraint abject from provocative actions that could threaten the stability of the region.

Malaysia, another ASEAN member, has been at the receiving end of Chinese intimidation. A Malaysian oil vessel was followed by a Chinese survey ship, Haiyang Dizhi.

The Malaysian coast guard confirmed that the survey activity was inside Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone. According to Haiyang Dizhi’s travel history, it left port at Sanya on Hainan Island on 9 April, went through Vietnamese waters and entered the waters of Malaysia and Brunei on 17 April.

US Support To ASEAN

The United States is also actively involved in the SCS dispute as it views Chinese actions as examples of expansionism and regional bullying. In addition to the air and naval exercise in response to Chinese activities, Washington also spoke to ASEAN member countries via video call earlier last week.

U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, warned his ASEAN counterparts that China is taking advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the coronavirus. Since many member nations are weak to respond at this critical juncture, the Chinese have the perfect window of opportunity to swiftly assert their position.

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ASEAN countries cannot afford the colonization of the South China Sea by Beijing. Experts talking to the EurAsian Times stated that as long as ASEAN members continue to argue amongst themselves, China will find it easier to split them and reap in the rewards of a fractured association.

ASEAN must work with the US, who although is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, but remains the only country that can thwart Beijing’s actions and plans.

Despite the international outcry and criticism, China seems determined to push forward and defend its regional interests. China launched a counter-protest to Vietnam’s issuing of diplomatic notes to the UN, saying –   “Any country that attempts to deny China’s sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea in any form and to reinforce their illegal claims is doomed to fail,” said Geng Shuang, the Ministry spokesperson.

China will take “all necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, experts have warned that ASEAN nations must unite and unequivocally back the US to contain China and at the same time seriously negotiate with Beijing to find a long-lasting solution. Else, the day the US starts slipping, China would have controlled the entire region, either by economic might or military muscle.

Asia Pacific

India, China Agree To Withdraw Troops From LAC; The Question Is Who Will Pull-Out First?

India, China have agreed to withdraw their frontline soldiers from the Line of Actual Control after elongated discussions between Indian NSA Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Experts have questioned – who will withdraw first – Indian or Chinese soldiers?

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India and China have agreed to withdraw troops from the contested Line of Actual Control, the de-facto India-China border region, after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke on Sunday night.

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The Chinese Foreign Ministry released the contents of the discussion which revealed that India and China had reached an agreement on four key points. One is that they agreed to take guidance from the important accord reached by the top leaders (Modi and Xi), which attaches great significance to the stability of the border areas with the development of bilateral relations, and put border disputes in a proper perspective to evade heightening the border clashes writes the Chinese state media – the Global Times.

India and China also welcomed the progress achieved in the recent military and diplomatic meetings, agreed to stay in dialogue and consultation and emphasised the necessity to act on the agreement reached in the commander-level talks and to complete withdrawal of the front-line soldiers as soon as possible, according to the FM release.

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In response to a question on whether China has withdrawn troops from the contested Galwan Valley, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that both sides have agreed on disengagements of border troops. “We hope the two sides could meet each other halfway in implementing these agreements,” Zhao said.

The present talks between China and India strive to prevent the border situation from worsening any further, and it is an agreement reached by the two sides to defuse the tensions, Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.

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“Meetings of China-India Special Representatives are the top political measures to handle the border issues, only second to the summit of leaders from the two countries, and it is safe to say that the special representative agreements send a positive signal to ease border tensions,” Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies said.

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The details of the pact, such as who will withdraw first – Indian or Chinese soldiers could be carried out in a “silent” manner, to avoid instigation public sentiments or provoking unreasonable emotions, especially in India, Zhao stated.

The India media reports that Chinese PLA troops have moved back tents, vehicles and soldiers by few kilometres from locations where disengagement was agreed upon at Corps Commander-level talks have not been confirmed by the Chinese officials.

Via: The Global Times

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Asia Pacific

On Dalai Lama’s 85th Birthday, Is It Time For India To Reset ‘One China’ Policy?

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As the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama celebrates his 85th birthday, there is a debate amongst experts whether India should reset its ‘One China’ policy. The discussions began after a host of Indian politicians sent wishes to His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama in the midst of the feud with China. 

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The ‘One China’ policy is the diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government. Under the policy, countries recognise and have formal ties with China rather Taiwan and consider disputed territories such as Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong an inseparable part of China.

For years, India has maintained a low profile when it comes to Tibetan politics and gone at lengths to ensure that the ‘One China’ policy is not violated. In 2018, the Government of India ordered its officials to stay away from a rally marking 60 years of Dalai Lama in India.

Tibet has been a bone of contention between New Delhi and Beijing since 1959 when Dalai Lama escaped to Assam after a failed revolt against the Chinese. After India gave him refuge and allowed an exiled Tibetan government to operate from Dharamsala, China has viewed India with suspicion and blamed New Delhi for supporting anti-China activities.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, the fact that Indian politicians today extended wishes to Dalai Lama mark a major departure from India’s policy from two years ago.

Birthday greetings were sent by Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, Pema Khandu, chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, RK Mathur, the lieutenant governor of Ladakh.

India should make Tibet a Key Issue

Speaking to Economic Times, Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said that India should make Tibet one of the key issues in Sino-India policies. Similar views are shared by Indian experts who believe it is time India re-assessed its ‘one China’ policy.

The 51-year old spoke about the strategic significance of Tibet — historically, geopolitically, culturally and ecologically as Tibet is the water tower of Asia and stressed on the importance of Tibet in being part of Indian policies with regards to China.

India is home to the largest Tibetan population in exile and has always found support from the community whenever New Delhi has clashed with Beijing.

Recently, Indian-Americans, Tibetan-Americans and Taiwanese-Americans took to the streets in New York to protest against increased Chinese aggression in the midst of a global pandemic. The group held placards of “Boycott China” and “Stop Chinese Abuse” as they shouted slogans against the country.

India is not the only country at the receiving end of Chinese aggression. Beijing has also clashed with Bhutan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and the United States.

The Sino-Indian dispute in Ladakh seems to have cooled down after both countries retreated and established a 4-kilometre no-man zone earlier today. The dispute with China in Ladakh has been going on since the first week of June and so far has resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and unconfirmed numbers on the Chinese side.

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Asia Pacific

Bubonic Plague: China On ‘High Alert’ After Suspected Cases Of Bubonic Plague Reported 

The suspected cases of bubonic plague were reported on Saturday by a hospital in Bayannur, China. Two cases of the bubonic plague were reported from the same area less than 8 months ago.

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After COVID-19, Bubonic Plague has got China and the world worried. China is on high alert after suspected cases of bubonic plague were reported.

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The suspected cases of bubonic plague were reported on Saturday by a hospital in Bayannur, China. Two cases of the bubonic plague were reported from the same area less than 8 months ago.

The confirmed cases are a 27-year-old resident and his 17-year-old brother, who are being treated at two separate hospitals in their province. Reports indicate that the duo ate marmot meat. A total of 146 people who had contact with them have been isolated and treated at local hospitals.

According to state-run People’s Daily Online, Bayannur, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, announced a level III warning of plague prevention and control. The local health authority announced that the warning period will continue until the end of 2020.

“At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly,” the local health authority said.

The commission also issued an advisory for residents in the area to prevent people-to-people infection including not to hunt and eat animals that could cause plague infections.

Bubonic plague is a rare but serious bacterial infection transmitted by fleas from rodents and has the potential to be transmitted to other animals or humans. According to the World Health Organization, bubonic plague can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time.

There are three types of plague, a bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis: septicemic, which spreads in the blood; bubonic, which affects the lymph nodes; and pneumonic, which affects the lungs.

The news about the deadly disease comes a week after Chinese researchers issued an early warning over another potential pandemic caused by an influenza virus in pigs. From 2010 to 2015, there have been over 3,200 reported cases of bubonic plague, which resulted in 584 deaths.

According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the bubonic plague was responsible for wiping out millions in medieval Europe before spreading to Asia and Africa in the 14th century.

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