Libmonster ID: VN-1246
Author(s) of the publication: G. M. LOKSHIN
Educational Institution \ Organization: Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: South China Sea, artificial islands, international arbitration, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, sovereignty, exclusive economic zone

Events in the Middle East and the crisis in Ukraine have overshadowed the sometimes escalating and subsiding conflict in the South China Sea (SCM)1. But the development of events in this western part of the Asia-Pacific region (APR) is becoming increasingly dangerous for the world community. It has already been noted that in the second and third quarters of each year, i.e., in the period from April to September, there is a peak of disputes and contradictions in this area. Attention is also drawn to the cyclical nature of China's policy, in which 3 - 4 months of tension are replaced each time by the same period of its easing.

First, in 2015, the artificial expansion of reefs and shoals in the Spratly Archipelago (Kit. - Nansha) occupied by China, turning them into artificially created islands with runways, berths, warehouses and other structures provoked a new crisis, this time with the active participation of the United States, which can not come to terms with the fact that how the South China Sea is turning into another "maritime province" of the PRC.


Numerous satellite images have appeared in the media, indicating large-scale construction work. All indications were that China intended to build an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" in the South China Sea, which would have landing strips, radar installations, and ports for fishing and warships. These bases will be able to accommodate its H-6 strategic bombers, which have a range of 6,000 km and can reach anywhere north of Australia. Their missile armament allows them to hit American bases in Australia and control any actions in the Strait of Malacca. China seems to be preparing to project its military power to all parts of the region from the very center.

The Americans were clearly alarmed, first of all, by the unprecedented scale of these works, which could change the entire situation in the region. According to some sources, China has added 800 hectares to its territory, or four times more than all the other claimants to these islands in the South China Sea combined.2

In May, an American spy plane flew several flights over these artificial islands, taking with it a CNN crew that filmed all the built and under construction objects and recorded threatening demands from a Chinese warship to " immediately leave the territorial waters of China." A noisy scandal broke out around this demand. The issue made the front pages of the world's largest newspapers. There was bellicose rhetoric in the media and statements from all sides on this issue, especially in the United States and China.

Chinese scholars and propagandists argue that international law does not prohibit the artificial expansion of territories, and they cite the examples of Shanghai, Japan's Nagasaki Airport, Hong Kong and Dubai. But none of these examples is comparable to what is happening in the South China Sea. The expansion of territory is not made here to improve living conditions on islands that have been destroyed by the elements or due to human activity. China is pouring tons of sand from the bottom of the sea onto coral reefs to create artificial islands.

At the same time, Beijing claims that China is expanding the territory for which it has full sovereignty. He builds artificial structures over small elevations above water and rocks. According to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Beijing cannot claim sovereignty over these entities, as well as over territorial waters with airspace above them and over the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This is stated in articles 56, 60 and 80 of the said Convention. Sovereign rights to them belong only to the coastal State in whose EEZ they are located.

China claims its "sovereign rights" to these islands, which raises objections from Western experts. According to Carl Thayer, a well-known Australian expert on Southeast Asian (SE) issues, this represents "a form of legal alchemy, with which he tries to turn flooded shoals and rocks into naturally formed islands"3.

The conflict over territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea seems to have entered a new phase, characterized by the fact that the dispute has flared up not only between China and the neighboring states of Southeast Asia, but also between China and such powers as

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USA, Japan and India. It was in the center of attention of the May 28-30, 2015 forum. The Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, which is considered the Asian version of the annual Munich Security Forum.

The leaders of the leading Western powers also recognized the serious threat of an aggravation of the crisis in the South China Sea at the G7 summit held in Germany in June. They stressed the need for peaceful resolution of disputes and ensuring the right of all States to use the world's oceans freely and without hindrance. At the same time, they expressed categorical objections to the use of threats and forceful pressure, as well as to any unilateral actions, such as large-scale expansion of territories and the creation of artificial islands, which change the status quo in the region. Although China was not named, it was clear who the Western leaders were referring to and to whom they were referring. Previously, the leading European powers were neutral about China's actions in the South China Sea, but this time they followed the United States and Japan.

Thus, external forces entered the scene. In this context, China strongly opposed the internationalization of the conflict and the interference of other Powers in its affairs "on the islands belonging to it." The candidates from the ASEAN countries themselves have mostly chosen to remain behind the scenes, showing an ambivalent attitude towards external interference. They have again shown that they do not want to side with either China or the United States, which in both cases can be fraught with completely undesirable consequences for them. In addition, the external factor does not remove the main issue in China's dispute with other contenders.


The South China Sea is the shortest route from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It is home to one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. The Strait of Malacca is the busiest in the world. It accounts for more than half of the world's annual commercial shipping tonnage. The region's rich fish and seafood resources, as well as open and prospective hydrocarbon deposits, are also of great importance.

The lack of regulatory status in the South China Sea leads to legal disputes, diplomatic conflicts, and dangerous incidents. The dispute concerns three issues: the delineation of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and the continental shelf; sovereignty over islands; and freedom of navigation in the EEZ and archipelagos.

Disputed territories in the South China Sea include two archipelagos, the Paracel Archipelago and the Spratly Islands, as well as the Scarborough Range of small islands and coral reefs located separately to the northeast of the Spratly Islands.

The Paracel Islands are the subject of a dispute between China and Vietnam, although they are also claimed by Taiwan. Scarborough reefs are also the subject of a dispute between China and the Philippines. The Spratly Archipelago itself is claimed entirely by Vietnam, China and Taiwan, and partially by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

The situation in the Spratly Archipelago, according to the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Service in 2004, is as follows::

Vietnam occupies only 21 territorial features, of which 5 are natural islands, and another 4 are rocks or sandbanks located quite high above the water. In total-no more than 17 items can have some kind of territorial status. The remaining ones are small elevations above the water or submerged reefs. Vietnam has about a dozen other observation posts in other parts of the disputed area.

The Philippines consists of 9 sites, including 5 islands, 3 towering rocks and 1 underwater reef.

The PRC occupies 7 sites, one of which (the Fiery Cross Reef) constantly rose above sea level to a sufficient height. The remaining 6 could only be considered minor elevations above water until recently. All seven have now been turned into artificial islands.

Malaysia occupies 5 objects, one of which is a rock. The rest may be land areas rising above the water, but there is no photographic confirmation of this.

Taiwan occupies one, but the largest island of Taiping Tao, and controls all nearby elevations.

Brunei does not own any islands, but claims an EEZ that it is entitled to, in which it has oil and gas drilling platforms, and defends this in a dispute with the PRC.

Indonesia does not participate in the dispute over the islands, but claims its EEZ, which is also subject to the claims of the PRC.

All parties to the dispute have signed and ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Until May 13, 2009 They had to submit their proposals on the EEZ and the limits of the continental shelf to the UN Special Commission. Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia did so within the specified time frame. Their applications were immediately challenged by China in a note dated April 14, 2009, to which the map was attached. A dotted line in the shape of the Latin letter "U" (in Vietnam it is called "cow's tongue" - author's note) was drawn on it, covering 80% of the South China Sea water area, including almost all its islands (see the map). As you can see, it cuts through the EEZ of Vietnam and the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, leaving them a narrow strip of territorial waters.

So far, neither the latitude and longitude coordinates have been specified, nor the purpose of this line: whether it is an application that was required by the UN Commission, or only a protest against the received applications of the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

In 2009, on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the "U" line was presented as the border of the" historical sea " of China4. The UN Convention of 1982, according to Chinese propagandists and scientists, has nothing to do with this, because the South China Sea was supposedly under Chinese control de facto and de jure from ancient times.

Beijing's insistence on territorial claims became increasingly inflexible as the country's ever-increasing demands for energy and fisheries resources and rivalry with the United States intensified.

In 2009-2012, another cycle of confrontation unfolded

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Map. Territorial claims of the PRC in the South China Sea.

Source: http://amti.csis.Org/atlas/2

the main opponents - Vietnam and the Philippines-with China according to the well-known formula "action-reaction" (action-reaction). In 2012, the Chinese leadership qualified territorial claims in the South China Sea as a "key national interest" along with Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan, which meant treating the South China Sea as a sovereign territory of China. This significantly increased the degree of tension in the South China Sea. It culminated in the events of spring 2012 in the Scarborough Shoal area.

In April of that year, Philippine aviation detected a large group of Chinese fishing vessels in the area, which is part of the country's EEZ. The Philippines ' only major warship was sent to meet them. Chinese fishermen called in many of their own paramilitary patrol boats to help. The standoff lasted almost two months and, with the mediation of the United States, ended with the withdrawal of military vessels from both countries. But after some time, Chinese patrols returned and completely blocked the Filipinos from entering the area.

The following year, the East China Sea Islands (Diaoyu) were at the center of the Sino-Japanese dispute./Senkaku)5 and the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) of the PRC over them. But May and July 2014 were particularly stressful.

On May 1, China moved its giant HD 981 deep-sea oil and gas drilling platform into the Paracel Islands 80 miles into Vietnam's EEZ. She was accompanied by a whole flotilla of 120 auxiliary and patrol ships, including several military ones. This was the first time that China has so openly and so far gone to violate the status quo in the South China Sea. The scale and intensity of the confrontation that broke out was significantly higher than it was in the dispute with Japan that escalated in 2013.

The Vietnamese leadership remained silent for almost two weeks, showing restraint and avoiding dramatizing the situation. The Vietnamese patrol boats were only insistent on getting the rig out of the area. There were several dangerous collisions with Chinese ships, but neither side used its Navy or Air Force. Not a single shot was fired, except for the widespread use of water cannons by the Chinese, which affected many Vietnamese border guards.

In Vietnam, China's actions naturally caused an explosion of public outrage, which was added to the strong pressure of the diaspora in the United States, France and other countries. On May 13-14, mass demonstrations were held in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and several other cities of the country. Events in some places got out of control and turned into pogroms of Chinese, and at the same time some other foreign enterprises.

No country supported this action of the PRC. The United States and Japan strongly condemned it. After all, China was forced to take the first step back. On July 16, the HD 981 drilling platform with all its escorts took off and left for the territorial waters of the People's Republic of China. Beijing was preparing to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November with the participation of leaders of 21 economies* of the Asia-Pacific region, where US President Barack Obama was expected. President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, leaders of the Asia-Pacific countries. It was unwise to continue the conflict in these circumstances.

Since then, Sino-Vietnamese relations seem to have returned to the path of normalization. Hanoi is making great efforts to prevent a new crisis in the disputed region. On April 7-8, 2015, General Secretary of the CPV Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong visited Beijing at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. But that doesn't stop Chinese border guards and marine police from continuing to react harshly to the appearance of Vietnamese fishermen near the Paracel Islands.


The events in the Scarborough Shoal area prompted the Philippines to file a lawsuit against China in the Hague Arbitration Tribunal on January 22, 2013.6 They demanded the conclusion of the arbitration tribunal on three issues:

1. China's claim of "historical rights" to the waters, seabed and resources below it within the "U" line beyond what it is entitled to under the 1982 Convention is untenable and invalid.

2. Requirement of the EEZ and the limits of the continental shelf around

* APEC does not include states, but rather economies, so as not to call Taiwan and Hong Kong independent states (author's note).

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Semi-submerged rocks and coral reefs are contrary to the 1982 Convention.

3. China's implementation of these demands constitutes a violation of the sovereign rights, jurisdiction, and freedom of navigation of the Philippines.

This caused strong objections from Beijing. On February 19, 2013, China sent a note to the Philippine Government stating its position on the South China Sea issues, strongly rejected the Philippines ' claim, and refused to cooperate with the Tribunal without recognizing its jurisdiction. At the same time, pressure began on the Philippines in all directions and lobbying other ASEAN countries to get the Philippines ' lawsuit withdrawn.

None of the 10 ASEAN member countries have ever agreed to the " U " line, but each has its own way of building relations with China, which has long been ASEAN's main trading partner. They reacted with restraint to the action of the Philippines, taken unilaterally and without consulting them. There were good reasons for this.

The arbitration procedure requires several years (which is exactly what happened) and does not guarantee the right decision. During this time, China can further strengthen its position in the South China Sea, which it has indeed done. The Philippines ' initiative has jeopardized the already difficult negotiations to transform the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea 2002 (DOC) into a legally binding Code (COC), with which the ASEAN countries pin their hopes for peace and stability in the region.

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry also limited itself to saying that each country can use any peaceful means to resolve disputes with the PRC, but then avoided supporting the claim of the Philippines. The Philippines ' claim had nothing to do with the Paracel Islands, the main object of the dispute with the PRC. The sovereignty claims of Vietnam and the Philippines in the Spratly Archipelago are partly imposed on each other, and therefore they are not quite one in this matter. But the two countries have decided to put off clarifying their positions and have recently been rapidly strengthening their bilateral relations, trying to raise them to the level of a strategic partnership.

However, since then, at the request of the Philippines, a 5-member arbitration tribunal has been formed under the chairmanship of Ghanaian Judge Thomas A. Mensah. The trial actually began and continues in the absence of Chinese representatives, which, however, is provided for in its charter.7


December 2014 was the most eventful year on this front. The United States, China and Vietnam almost simultaneously expressed their positions on the legal aspects of the dispute in the South China Sea. On December 5, the US State Department was the first to publish an entire monograph from the Maritime Boundary Research series. He argued that the "U" line contradicts international law and cannot serve as the basis for the maritime border of the PRC in the South China Sea. Washington believes that China has failed to prove its "historical rights" even under the customary rules of law that precede the 1982 Convention, and China's claims create the threat of confrontation, undermine regional stability and close the prospects for achieving a peaceful settlement.8

Thus, the United States entered into this legal dispute, expressing its criticism of the" expansionist", in their opinion, demands of the PRC in the South China Sea, although previously American politicians at all levels have consistently stated that they do not support any of the parties in territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

As a US military ally, the Philippines expected this support. Among experts, there is an opinion that the very filing of their claim was made not without a hint from Washington. And among the participants in the process from the Philippines are several well-known American lawyers.

During his visit to the Philippines in April 2014, Barack Obama refrained from explicitly guaranteeing military support to the Philippines in the event of a conflict with China. Instead, the United States is seeking a broader and more balanced solution that would preserve stable bilateral relations with China while at the same time renew its commitment to military alliances with the Philippines and other allies. The chances of success of such a double game are still few.

US interests in the South China Sea can be summed up in three points: to maintain peace and stability, to ensure freedom of commercial navigation, and to preserve the possibility of conducting military activities (especially intelligence) in the exclusive economic zone of other states, primarily China.

The first two points do not raise any objections. And there are a lot of questions about the third one. More than 20 States (including China, India, Vietnam, and the former Soviet Union) disagreed with him, making a special reservation when signing the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, according to which a foreign warship was required to first request permission from a coastal state to pass through its EEZ. It was on this basis that in 2008 an incident occurred with the American destroyer "Impecable", which was engaged in reconnaissance near the Chinese island of Hainan 9.

The second important event was the immediate publication of the Position paper in December 2014 China, with a 36-page explanation of the reasons why the International Court of Arbitration does not have jurisdiction to hear the Philippines ' claim. The Chinese Government, while not intending to participate in the review of the 4,000 pages of Philippine testimonies and evidence provided to the arbitral tribunal, nevertheless arranged for five of its judges to consider China's objections to their authority to hear the claim.

The coincidence of two publications, China and the United States, timed to coincide with the new stage of arbitration, is clearly not accidental. To a certain extent, it shows that Beijing and Washington would like to keep the territorial dispute in the South China Sea in the legal field and at the same time influence the course of events in their own interests. The Chinese Memorandum repeats all previously expressed objections to the consideration of the dispute for three reasons:

1. The 1982 Convention does not grant the Tribunal jurisdiction over races-

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review of sovereignty issues raised in the Philippines ' lawsuit.

2. China exercises "its inherited undisputed sovereignty" over all the South China Sea islands, including those located within the Philippines ' 200-mile EEZ.

3. The Philippines itself violated previous bilateral and multilateral agreements, in particular the 2002 Declaration (DOC), by initiating compulsory arbitration under the 1982 Convention.

It is noteworthy that China did not even try to defend its " U " line. Instead, it proves only the illegality of the arbitration court. This is nothing new. This happens in almost all cases when a country that is sued in an international court of justice refuses to participate. It is true that the International Court of Arbitration has no jurisdiction over sovereignty issues, but it is fully entitled to express its opinion on the illegality of the"U-line".

According to the representatives of the Philippines, since becoming a party to the 1982 Convention, the State has undertaken to comply with its terms and conditions and can no longer claim any rights and jurisdiction that do not comply with the Convention.

The Philippine side claims that of the three arguments of the Chinese side against the jurisdiction of international arbitration, the first two are doubtful, since the Philippines does not ask the court to resolve a territorial dispute or review borders. And the third, which is that the Philippines allegedly lost the right to initiate international arbitration by signing the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea 2002 (DOC), in their opinion, is also not convincing from a legal point of view, because, like any declaration, DOC2002 is not binding and has often been violated by all parties. The Philippines stated all this in its explanations to the arbitrators and expressed confidence that the court would recognize its jurisdiction in this case.

On March 16, 2015, the Philippines submitted additional 3,000-page documentation to the Permanent Court of Arbitration refuting China's claims that the body lacked the necessary jurisdiction. China has been given until 16 June 2015 to submit comments on these objections. But this was not done. And the tribunal decided on July 17, 2015 to proceed with the hearing, having decided at the same time the question of its jurisdiction. The Tribunal is expected to issue an opinion by March 2016, although the process may proceed more quickly.

The arbitral tribunal may::

a) dismiss the Philippines ' claim or decide that it does not have jurisdiction to hear it.

b) accept the Philippines ' claim and rule in its favor on all legal issues raised by it.

c) accept the Philippines ' claim, but rule in favor of China on some issues and in favor of the Philippines on others.

Despite all the options, China has made it clear that it will not change its position in the South China Sea. The 1982 Convention did not create any mechanism for imposing sanctions on a State that does not comply with international arbitration decisions.

In the event of a negative decision for it, Beijing may still suffer some damage to its reputation and its soft power policy. Given, however, the increased role of nationalist forces in the CCP and in the country's public opinion, it seems that China is not yet "ripe" to consider international arbitration as an acceptable way to resolve its disputes at sea, but it is also undesirable for it to appear as a destroyer of the regional order that does not recognize the norms of international law.


Most experts on the law of the sea, except, of course, the Chinese, do not agree with the concept of the so-called "historical sea", and it is unlikely that it will be applied if and when it comes to the delimitation of sovereignty in the South China Sea. China, in their view, has never exercised lasting and undisputed sovereignty over the region. And the South China Sea-the most important artery in global trade connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans-is not a bay, bay or other type of coastal waters to which any "historical rights" could be extended, most experts say.

The 1982 Convention, signed and ratified by Beijing, allows only a strictly limited application of" historical facts "and the resulting rights only in delineating the territorial waters of coastal States (i.e., within a 12-mile radius), but it does not say a word about "historical justifications" for sovereignty claims or any special rights to land. such a significant distance from the coastline of China, as in this case. In short, China's demands, according to the above-mentioned experts, go far beyond, if not completely contrary to, modern international law, especially the 1982 Convention.

In the West, many Chinese experts believe that the definition of sovereignty is based by lawyers on their own international laws, which they have formulated for themselves. According to their "international law", there are several different ways of acquiring sovereignty: possession of no man's land, discovery, occupation, conquest, cession, and others. Among them, the principle of Uti Possidetis is often used, which can be translated as "what you have, you will keep". They often say: "ownership is 9/10 of the right", i.e., if you have mastered something, you will continue to own it. This also means that if there are multiple applicants equally strong in their demands, whoever physically owns the land can continue to own it. This is, in fact, one of the main arguments of Chinese lawyers.

The definition of sovereignty in the South China Sea is complicated by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article 57 of the Convention grants certain sovereign rights to coastal States in their EEZs at a distance of 200 miles from the baseline of the coast and the same amount more on the continuation of the coastal shelf. Granting sovereign rights does not imply recognition of sovereignty, but it is derived from sovereignty on earth,

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Consequently, an EEZ cannot be designated until the sovereignty of its source base - the coast-is determined. This also applies to islands that, according to the 1982 Convention, are also entitled to an EEZ and special rights on the shelf. Where an EEZ and rights on the continental shelf of two States overlap, these rights are determined by the proximity of the coastal State or other factors agreed upon by both parties concerned.

Nationalism remains the most important political factor in East Asia, and China is no exception. China's constant references to its "historical rights" raise serious concerns not only among the pretenders to sovereignty in the South China Sea, but also among all other neighbors of the PRC. China has such a long history, and it may well be that the ancient Chinese were the first to discover and name many islands in the South China Sea and other seas surrounding their country. However, no evidence to support this fact has yet been presented. But giving a name and claiming sovereignty are two very different things. It is also important that these names are recognized by all navigators of many other countries. And they were included in the generally recognized navigation maps under other names that were given by the captains of Portuguese and English ships.

History is always subject to many interpretations, which can change with the discovery of new facts and changing interests. So references to history, as you know, can lead the relationship of the parties very far and not at all where they would like.

China also insists on its own interpretation of history. And this creates significant obstacles to easing tensions. After several decades of massive propaganda, the Chinese population and the country's leadership itself seem to be convinced that they are the rightful owner of all the islands and, possibly, the entire sea area between them.

Chinese history in the South China Sea begins, according to Chinese scholars, before the new era and continues continuously to our time, and the Chinese people have the right to defend their sovereignty against any interventionists.10 But history is far from on the side of Chinese demands. During the various ancient and medieval Chinese dynasties, there was no such thing as sovereignty at all. It appeared in Europe only in connection with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Before that, all existing empires and kingdoms had never fixed their borders.

Chinese historians simply substitute the concept of sovereignty for the suzerainty enjoyed by Chinese rulers. And these are completely different things. In addition, they often declare even the rulers of the Tatar-Mongol and Manchu dynasties as "Chinese", and, accordingly, all their conquests as their "ancestral lands" 11. The Chinese leadership has never given up, for example, claims to return the territories of the Qing Empire, which are now far beyond its modern borders. So with regard to the South China Sea, Chinese schoolchildren and students are still taught that their country has "historical rights" to the entire region within the "U-line".


On December 8, 2014, Vietnam entered the legal dispute by submitting its position to the Hague Arbitration. This time, he expressed support for the Philippines 'claim, questioned the validity of the "U line" and asked that"due consideration be given to the legitimate rights and interests of Vietnam."

This move by Vietnam will likely not affect the consideration of the lawsuit, but it has its own political significance. Together with the Philippines and the United States, which opened a legal dispute with China, Hanoi decided to state its position on the issue and emphasize its right to use existing legal instruments to resolve potentially explosive territorial disputes. Vietnam needed the tribunal to hear its arguments, and it did so in the least provocative way possible against China.

Given the so-called "tyranny of geography" in which Vietnam finds itself, it is unlikely that it is ready to go all the way with the Philippines in a legal dispute with China. The situation of these two countries is too different. But it is possible that the Vietnamese leadership was simply forced to show solidarity with the Philippines and its approach to the problem, given the strong pressure of public opinion in their camp, which requires more active protection of rights and interests in the South China Sea. As K. Thayer rightly pointed out, Hanoi's decision to express its position without formally initiating arbitration proceedings against China and without joining the Philippines ' claim was "an appropriate way to enter it from the back door "12.

Of course, caught between two superpowers-the United States and China - Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines pin their hopes of opposing China's plans on the possibility of some support from the United States. It is no coincidence that Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang, during a visit to the United States in July 2013, expressed support for the" turn " of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. And in May 2015, General Secretary of the CPV Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong visited Hanoi, which does not mean a departure from Hanoi's principled position of "three no's"*.


On June 16, 2015, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that, in accordance with the work plan, the construction of islands on a number of reefs in the Nanypa Archipelago (Spratly) will be completed in the coming days. Beijing, as noted by the Chinese newspaper "Global Times", withstood powerful pressure in connection with the implementation of these works. He showed the ability to implement his projects in the most difficult circumstances. He also showed "determination to defend its sovereignty and interests at sea, and offered his services to the international community" .13

The construction of artificial islands appears to many observers to be a deliberate move against any State-

* No - participation in military blocs, no-foreign bases on their territory, no-a military alliance against a third country (author's note).

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decisions of the arbitration tribunal. This is an attempt by China to assert its "effective occupation" of the islands before the Hague Court makes any decision on the case. China is changing the situation on the ground and putting the region in front of a fait accompli. It doesn't build up territories. It builds forward support bases on artificially created islands for its fishing fleet, for ships exploring for gas and oil fields, and for patrol ships of its law enforcement agencies. All of this should reinforce and reinforce the unqualified claims of China's "indisputable sovereignty" over the entire South China Sea. As a result, China succeeded in a kind of" legal alchemy", turning the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea into"international law with a Chinese face".

All these artificial islands are highly likely to be declared by China as a legitimate part of the territory of the PRC, with the establishment of a 12-mile zone of territorial waters, a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and a national airspace closed to outsiders. This opens a direct path to turning the South China Sea into an inland lake of the PRC.

With regard to the future development of the situation in the South China Sea, three scenarios can be assumed: the Sino-American conflict, the war between China and Vietnam, and the consolidation of China in a leading role in the entire water area of this sea.

The first scenario seems to be the least unlikely today, due to the highest level of economic interdependence between the two states, its devastating and suicidal nature and potential transformation into a global thermonuclear catastrophe. Neither China nor the United States really wants to be drawn into such a war. In addition, until recently, the undisputed naval dominance of the United States in the region is gradually eroding, and the United States will inevitably have to reckon with China's interests.

Just as unlikely is a new war between two neighboring states-China and Vietnam. The ideological closeness of the ruling parties and the commonality of the political and social system leave their mark on the nature of Vietnam-China relations, although they do not remove the contradictions of national interests. The apparent paradox in relations between the two neighbors can be understood taking into account the real balance of power, as well as the Confucian philosophy of foreign policy, primarily in China, but in many respects in Vietnam, too. As you know, it is based on a combination of opposites, on the harmonization of what, from our point of view, is not harmonized in any way.

In this context, Vietnam, as a weaker state, has for many years resorted to tactics that have been known in the East since ancient times: given that the strongest (suzerain) expects respect and respect for himself, the weakest (Vietnam) does not spare words for this, but expects that his autonomy will also be respected. It is natural for a large and powerful country to exert influence over a smaller neighbor, just as it is natural for a smaller country to resist this influence in every possible way and maintain its independence until they both reach a mutually satisfying position - a certain modus vivendi.

So the third option still looks most likely. A recently published White Paper on China's new military doctrine highlights China's determination to establish a military presence in the open waters of the Western Pacific, where it will inevitably dominate.

China seems to have come to the conclusion that it is possible to realize its interests in the South China Sea without war. By insisting on its maximalist demands in the South China Sea, Beijing is simultaneously proving, and with good reason, that the United States places its bilateral military alliances with some ASEAN countries above the interests of collective security in the region. Like the failed strategy of "Vietnamization" of the Vietnam War 40 years ago, the United States is trying to use the contradictions of its neighbors in the region with China to maintain its control over strategically important communications. But American agreements with Asian allies are more limited than with NATO partners. Therefore, it may well turn out that Washington, in the end, will prefer to accept China's plans in the South China Sea, instead of supporting its small allies in a confrontation with a rival economic giant and nuclear power over a relatively minor territorial dispute for them.

Obviously, it is in China's interest to control the conflict, not to inflate it to a global level. Further aggravation of the situation in the South China Sea is unlikely to contribute to the implementation of his grandiose plans for the revival of the"sea Silk Road". It would be much better for everyone if the main players in the region actually followed the spirit and letter of international law in resolving their disputes.

1 For more information, see: Lokshin G. M. The South China Sea: A Difficult Search for Consent, Moscow, IDV RAS, 2013.

2 11, 2015.

Thayer Carl. 3 No, China is Not Reclaiming Land in the South China Sea // 07, 2015.

4 The "U" line first appeared in 1947 on maps issued by Chiang Kai-shek's government to indicate territorial claims to Japan. The United States and other participants of the 1951 San Francisco Conference did not accept these demands of China. The Paracel Islands were returned to Vietnam (then under the rule of Emperor Bao Dai), and the Spratly Islands remained part of the French colony of Cochin China. After all the historical changes of the 20th century, they should logically and rightfully have been inherited by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. But this did not happen, and the "U" line was later reproduced more than once on maps published in the PRC, which no one paid much attention to.

5 For more information, see: Kireeva A. A. The Japanese-Chinese dispute: Senkaku or Diaoyu? // Asia and Africa today. 2013. N 10, 11. (Kireeva A. A. 2013. Yapono-kitaiskyi spor: Senkaku ili Dyaoyuidao? // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 10, 11) (in Russian)

6 id-1529

7 Ibidem.

Poling Gregory B. 8 Beijing's & Washington's dueling South China Sea papers - http://PacNet#87. December 9, 2014.

9 For more information, see: Lokshin G. M. Decree of soch., pp. 56-57.

10 For more information, see: Galenovich HUME. Chinese Interpretations, Moscow, Vostochnaya kniga. 2011. (Galenovich Yu.M. 2011. Kitaiskie interpretatsii. M.) (in Russian)

11 See: Galenovich Yu. M. K voprosu o natsional'nom samosoznanii kitaytsev v kontse XX veka [To the question of national self-consciousness of the Chinese at the end of the XX century]. (Galenovich Yu.M. 1999. K voprosu o natsionalnom soznanii kitaitsev... M.) (in Russian)

12 December 19, 2014.

13 Global Times. 17.06.2015.


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