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Asia’s Palestine

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Surin Pitsuwan

The escalating dispute in the South China Sea is threatening to embroil the whole of Southeast Asia into violent conflict and make it “Asia’s Palestine”, according to Surin Pitsuwan, the outgoing secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). In an interview with BBC last week, Pitsuwaran warned that the territorial dispute was entering its “most contentious” phase as an emboldened China stakes out its claim to the entire oil-rich South China Sea.

Pitsuwan attributes the deteriorating situation in the South China Sea to “the internal dynamics of China” which is facing slow economic growth and charges of widespread corruption. At the 18th Communist Party Congress held in Beijing last month, outgoing party boss Hu Jintao warned that corruption and a lack of political integrity “could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state,” despite China’s having become the world’s second-largest economy.

The once in a decade change in leadership of the Chinese Communist Party saw the elevation of Xi Jinping as the new party boss. To deal with a slowing economy and corruption, Xi is seeking to divert the people’s attention away with a series of provocative initiatives.

The first was the issuance of new passports featuring a map of China that includes virtually all the disputed islands in the South China Sea. This was certain to ignite controversy.
Vietnam was the first to respond by stamping “invalid” on the newly issued passports rather than recognizing China’s claim to the Paracel Islands that are within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Vietnam.

Because the new China map on the passport also includes the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of China, India has issued visas to Chinese citizens with India’s own embossed version of its map.

Maps are a highly sensitive issue to the Philippines because China’s claim of ownership of the Kalayaan Island Group of the Spratly Islands near Palawan is based on an ancient Chinese map in the 2nd century, and its claim of ownership of the Scarborough Shoal near Zambales is based on a map in the 12thcentury Yuan Dynasty.

If the Philippine government accepts the new China passports with all its territorial claims, it will be viewed as tacit acceptance of China’s claim to the whole South China Sea.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago assailed China’s new passport as a “direct assault of our sovereignty and an act of aggression.” Santiago further added: “We will be well within our rights to deny them entry,” she said. “They cannot be allowed to go around our country bearing that offensive document.”

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sent a formal protest letter to Beijing last week, calling China’s passport maps “an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law.”

On November 28, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced it will no longer stamp its visas on China’s new electronic passports “to avoid the Philippines being misconstrued as legitimizing the nine-dash line (claim) every time a Philippine visa is stamped on such Chinese e-passport.” It will instead issue its visa on a separate piece of paper.
China further escalated tensions in the South China Sea on November 29 when the newly created province of Sansha City in Hainan Island, which Beijing vested with sovereign authority to govern the entire South China Sea, approved two laws giving its police the right to search vessels that pass through its territorial waters, effective on January 1, 2013.

What makes this new development a “very serious turn of events”, according to Asean’s Pitsuwan, is that the ante has been raised considerably. About $5.3 trillion of global trade passes through the South China Sea each year, $1.2 trillion of which goes to and from U.S. ports. The US, which under Pres. Obama has made a “strategic pivot” to Asia, has an economic interest in preserving the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. It also has a political interest in preserving the credibility of its strategic alliances with countries like the Philippines.

On December 1, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) denounced China’s plans to board and inspect vessels in the disputed territories as “illegal and will validate the continuous and repeated pronouncements by the Philippines that China’s claim of indisputable sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea is not only an excessive claim but a threat to all countries…[It] deserves international condemnation by Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), our international partners and the entire community of nations.”

The DFA expressed concern that ships entering waters claimed by China, which is “virtually the entire South China Sea… can be boarded, inspected, detained, confiscated, immobilized and expelled, among other punitive actions.”

The Pag-Asa barangay in the Kalayaan island municipality of Palawan province has a population of 350 people, most of whom are fishermen. At least once a month, a Philippine Navy ship makes a pit stop at this island, just 125 miles from Palawan, to drop off fresh supplies for its island population.

What will happen when Hainan’s provincial patrol boats board the next Philippine Navy ship bound for Kalayaan Island in January of 2013?

(Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • dragonian

    i read the article mentioned above…..

    i see no ” Asia’s Palestine ” mentioned by the good sec-gen…

    t’was only invented by the great rumormonger on this site………..the author.

    • 7Rodel77

      Hi Dragonian, why don’t you go back to your computer in the PSCEM (Political Section China Embassy Manila) and google “Asia’s Palestine”? You will find at least a dozen news articles about Asean Sec-Gen Surin Pitsuwan and his reference to “Asia’s Palestine”. You know I did not invent that term but thank you for complimenting me as a “great rumormonger”. I hope you don’t get in trouble with your bosses. Xi you later.

      • dragonian

        oh yeah.. you are right. and what do you know about the plight of the palestinians? you picture the phil as the palestine?

        dont worry about me. me and China get along just fine. i am planning for a 2-week multi-city tour next year there. enjoy the nature and man-made marvels of modern China. zooming north to south with high-speed trains. ciao……

      • 7Rodel77

        Pitsuwan was not referring to the Philippines as Palestine. He was describing the dispute in the South China Sea as creating a flash point for violent conflict similar to what is happening in Palestine. That was his metaphorical reference.

        China is aware – as I’m sure you have proudly shown them – that you have been faithfully posting your pro-China comments in all the online articles that have criticized China. Certainly I see your posts in every article I have written about China. You deserve your two-week multi-city tour of China and all its man-made marvels. Saijean.

      • John_Cruz

        I hope Dragonian does not die in unsafe Chinese High-speed train!

      • dragonian

        don’t worry about me too johnny boy. i’m certainly quite safety in the hands of Chinese railways that crisscrossed across the whole China than the only one dilapidated PNR line here. i lose count how many times it derailed just because of rainfalls. and don’t forget. inside it. you are in the company of a whole bunch of thieves
        and btw……in 119yrs. PNR still got just 1 line? very proud.
        i rather die in a hi tech machine than being mugged by a thief.

      • dragonian

        don’t lose sleep because of me. i only dropped by when i need a laugh. there are just too much idiotic commentators on the net. giving stupid opinions about China as if they know a lot about them. as you dished out trash about China. i can refute most of them too.
        go ahead. just continue your tantrums. Chinese are known for disregarding criticism and quietly working at the background. and i am proud of them. they faced the dilemma squarely and fend it off by themselves…alone.
        and phil.? just like those bloggers here. crying around for help. rallying other countries to fight for her. you ashamed of it? may be not. you are AMERICAN.
        and Xi you too after Xi JinPing’s decade.

      • malampaya_1

        psssst…dragonian,

        don’t tell a lie that you’re dropping by i’m sure you’ll be the one cannot sleep tonight without defending your IDIOTIC and BULLY-CHINA. keep your dragon spitting fire not water, time will come the spitting paper dragon no more. hahaha!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VPSXDLCQEZGZDJSX32G7PYHNCI Noel

    After economic power, a country becomes military power.  For what use is military power if not being used?  That’s what China’s dangerous objective.  History has proven this to be the common practice of stronger nations like Germany and even US.

  • http://twitter.com/judefawley Jude Fawley

    I’m sure that the US will test this new policy created by China to board foreign ships entering its so called “territory” by sending US destroyers in the South China Sea. If the Chinese navy confronts the US destroyers then brace yourself for war. There will be battle in the region. There is no way the US destroyer will let Chinese navy get closer, let alone board its naval ship.  If the Chinese navy would not do anything, then it’s all mere words on the Chinese part.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000405903680 Garo Ungaro

      China is well aware of whats going on in the south china sea…China is testing the water…of what her neighbor is thinking…the reason why? China is so, into south china sea is very clear..whats under south china sea…OIL/GAS…bigger than the saudi oil field.they know they can get hold of it…China would gamble near their borders instead of buying and shipping oil from far countries..at a high price…they would gamble and invest in south china sea better…nobody will contest them…China can handle them…why? are they spending billions on defense…the navy, airforce, and the army…they know they will need and use them sooner or later…China is big. they need all the resources to sustain their existence…they have the manpower with a billion people the strong military/navy to expand…south china is the first target….do not rely on the US…they have little interest at this time after their failed intrusion in the meddle east…expect a token protest at this time…the Philippines is one target..why? the philippines is very strategic place in the south china sea…to control the shipping lanes passing south china sea what is better than to use the philippines…on the east and mainland china on the west…the best likely target is the palawan island more practical for them…the philippines can’t do anything if the chinese will wage a war…with the philippines…temporary safe as base for opening the resources under the south china sea…watch China behavior in the next 5 to 10 years…they’re focus on the OIL/GAS in the south china sea…Japan did it during WW2 its about the natural resoucress of the south east asia…

  • http://twitter.com/Joe_The_Kano Joe Kano

    This is an interesting rehash of news and analysis, but it leaves me wondering what the author is trying to say. Does he have an opinion about what should be done to prevent the dispute from escalating further? Is he simply worrying in print? That’s understandable but not particularly enlightening.
    More importantly, what is Defensor-Santiago’s proposal? Aside from making reckless public statements to anyone who will listen, and introducing silly resolutions to abrogate the VFA with the US, does she have any semblance of a real plan or proposal for dealing with this situation? Deny Chinese the right of entry? Good luck with that, and don’t cry if China boots OFWs out of Hong Kong in retaliation. Shrill pseudo-nationalism may impress a few, but it hardly seems effective at problem-solving. Why doesn’t PDI push her for details on this and other issues rather than simply regurgitate her rambling statements and press releases without question?

    • Facilitator1

      Awesome opinion/challenge…I hope MORE of this will come out versus careless, irrelevant, and /or reckless views/commentaries…PEACE

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BJDHYTRF4O2EQF26RPUNC5NPUY Riza

    Why not just let China and Vietnam come to blows with each other first? It’s high time that China got bogged down in a war that can’t be won.

  • randyaltarejos

    ASEAN must unite against a common target. Otherwise, it’s not only the Philippines and Vietnam that will suffer if China takes control of the vast South China Sea. If ASEAN can afford to boycott Chinese products, the better for its collective political interests.

    • myHumbleOpinion12

      Vietnam is led by a Communist Party. Vietnam befriended China for many, many years and they gladly accepted Chinese aid and troops during the war in order to kill other non-communist Vietnamese.

      • maorag44

        They had a nasty war in 1979 where China got a bloody nose and there were skrmishes until 1984 (google Sino-Vietnamese war

  • joboni96

    kanoy
    another u.s. gi drowning on ph beer

    a-10 a fighter bomber?

    tagay na
    maka gin nga ng makahabol

  • GMGUERRERO

    The dwarf countries should unite under India’s leadership.  Problem is India also has designs on the shoals because of oil.

  • haybuhay69

    Asia’s Palestine? Last time I checked, Palestine is in Asia

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