Skip to main content

Protesters shout slogans as they march towards the Chinese consulate during a rally Friday, May 11, 2012 in Manila's financial district of Makati, Philippines.

Pat Roque/AP

China's claim to every unoccupied island, sandbar, reef and shoal in the South China Sea is no more than an attempt to bully its neighbours – and cash in on possible oil and gas deposits.

The Philippines is right to ask the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas to resolve the conflict – which is threatening to worsen, with Chinese and Philippine vessels engaged in a standoff. Last month, a Philippine warship found fishing boats and surveillance ships from China in the Scarborough shoal, which is five times closer to the Filipino coast than to China's. And this week, China's state-owned tourism operator suspended ties with the Philippines after organizers pledged demonstrations outside Chinese embassy buildings.

Beijing claims that nearly all of the 3.5 million square kilometres of the sea is its sovereign territory because, centuries ago, Chinese explorers found and named the islands. This is a weak argument. The Philippines believes its geographical proximity to the islands forms a more legitimate claim, while Vietnam disputes China's historical account, saying China didn't claim sovereignty over the islands until the 1940s. Indonesia, Taiwan and Malaysia have also made rival claims. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea recognizes the 200-miles-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of the other claimants.

Story continues below advertisement

China's aggression comes just as the Philippines and Vietnam are opening up the waters they claim to foreign companies such as Shell and Chevron for oil exploration. While the Filipino navy is no match for China's, it has the U.S. on its side. Indeed, the U.S. Navy conducted its annual war games recently around Palawan island, close to one of the disputed areas, and the U.S. is seeking legal backing for increased patrols in the area.

China should adapt to contemporary geopolitical realities. Its claim is spurious. A solution should be found through negotiation and diplomacy – not through intimidation and threats. It is in the interests of all parties to settle this before tensions escalate further, and China is drawn into a dispute with global implications.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter