Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Magnanimity is Futile

The Philippines is trying to offer an olive branch to China to prevent China from lashing out after losing the Hague case on territorial claims in the South China Sea:

The Philippines is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on Friday (Jul 8).

Yasay said President Rodrigo Duterte's administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday's verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

This makes sense. Better to share resources than expend resources to fight for all of them.

But this is more about making the Philippines look better than a real effort to reach out to China. China considers this a matter of absolute territorial control and resource exploitation isn't the main motivation.

Indeed, China claims to be the victim in all this:

In a front-page editorial published the day before the Permanent Court of Arbitration is set to rule, the People's Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, argues that it is China, not the Philippines, that is the "real victim," casting the case as a foreign "plot" to weaken and humiliate China.

"The facts have proved clearly that the Philippines South China Sea arbitration case is completely a “trap” targeting China, which is hyped and manipulated by the U.S., led by the Philippines, and with cooperation from the arbitration courtroom," it says.


But Manila's outreach won't be wasted if the region unites against China, perhaps China will mute their claims, retreat a bit, work on dividing the opposition,and prepare for the day when they can just take and hold what they claim without worrying about effective resistance.

UPDATE: The ruling went against China big time:

An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, including its construction of artificial islands, and found that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis. ...

The five judges and legal experts on the tribunal ruled unanimously, and the decision was so heavily in favor of the Philippines that there were fears about how the Chinese leadership would react. Many in the region worry that Beijing will accelerate its efforts to assert control over the South China Sea, which includes vital trade routes and fishing waters as well as possible oil and mineral deposits. ...

The main issue before the panel was the legality of China’s claim to waters within a “nine-dash line” that appears on official Chinese maps and encircles as much as 90 percent of the South China Sea, an area the size of Mexico. The Philippines had asked the tribunal to find the claim to be in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both China and the Philippines have ratified.

And explain to me again why American approval of the Law of the Sea Treaty would help when this case was between two states belonging to the treaty?

Given that China's approval of the treaty "extinguished" any historical claims China might have, according to the tribunal, the Chinese may regret signing it, eh?

UPDATE: Here's an advocate for America ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty. I'm not persuaded.

But why would we expect that China would obey the treaty after we join when they refuse to abide by it now when in a dispute with another signatory nation?

China's claims that they wouldn't abide by the ruling because we aren't in the treaty are farcical. America has no disputes over land features in the region. And China and the Philippines are members.

And China rejects the notion that the South China Sea is international water--the one thing we do have an interest in. Is the author suggesting that China would back down from that claim if we joined the treaty? Really? You kiss your mother with that mouth?

Really, I think it is easier to argue that the Law of the Sea Treaty encouraged China to build islands in order to lay claim to exclusive economic zones based on those islands.

Why would Russia back down from Arctic claims if we joined the treaty? Isn't taking land from other countries already banned by the United Nations, which we are both in? How's Russia doing on that?

Why can we only influence the treaty within it when we helped write it and when we can use our economic and military power to support allies within the treaty who share our views? Is our diplomacy truly so bad that we can't manage that? Come on! Let's work with treaty member France who recently backed our position on the South China Sea issue! (Which I mentioned in this post.)

And if you think the Obama administration is only held back from seabed mining because we aren't in the treaty, don't insult me.

As for urging us to join because all the cool kids have joined? That's not an argument.

UPDATE: More. So who makes China abide by the ruling?

UPDATE: Stratfor has some background on this issue.