Big trouble still brewing in South China Sea

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    China should prepare for 'military confrontation' in South China Sea, newspaper declares

    Posted 7 minutes agoTue 5 Jul 2016, 5:00pm
    Photo: China is planning military drills in the South China Sea this week.
    (Reuters file photo: Ngyuen Minh)

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    Related Story: Defence ministers call for South China Sea negotiations

    Map: China
    China should prepare itself for military confrontation in the South China Sea, an influential Chinese paper has reported, a week ahead of a decision by an international court on a dispute between China and the Philippines.
    Key points:

    • China locked in territorial dispute with five other nations
    • Newspaper calls on China to be ready for conflict with Philippines
    • Philippines minister says 'nobody wants conflict'

    Tensions have been rising ahead of a July 12 ruling by an arbitration court in the Dutch city of The Hague.
    About $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year though the energy-rich, strategic waters of the South China Sea, where China's territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
    In joint editorials in its Chinese and English editions, the state-run Global Times said the dispute, having already been complicated by US intervention, now faces further escalation due to the threat posed by the tribunal to China's sovereignty.
    "Washington has deployed two carrier battle groups around the South China Sea, and it wants to send a signal by flexing its muscles: As the biggest powerhouse in the region, it awaits China's obedience," it said.
    China should speed up developing its military deterrence abilities, the paper added.
    "Even though China cannot keep up with the US militarily in the short-term, it should be able to let the US pay a cost it cannot stand if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force," it said.
    "China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, but it must be prepared for any military confrontation. This is common sense in international relations."
    Before and after: South China Sea

    See how China is converting reefs to military facilities by building artificial islands in the South China Sea.

    The newspaper is published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, and while it is widely read in policy-making circles, it does not have the same mouthpiece function as its parent and its editorials cannot be viewed as representing government policy.
    It is also well-known for its extreme nationalist views.
    China, which has been angered by US patrols in the South China Sea, will be holding military drills in the waters starting from Wednesday.
    China's Defence Ministry said the drills were routine, the official China Daily reported.
    Manila has sought to dial down tensions with its powerful neighbour ahead of the decision, but resisted pressure to ignore the ruling.
    "The reality is that nobody wants a conflict, nobody wants to resolve our conflict in a violent manner, nobody wants war," Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay told ANC television.
    "It is my understanding that the President would like to maintain stronger, better relationships with everybody, including China, including the United States, including Japan and all," Mr Yasay said, adding that a "special envoy" was needed to help resolve the dispute.
    US officials have expressed concern that The Hague court ruling could prompt Beijing to declare an air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, as it did over the East China Sea in 2013, or step up the pace of reclamation and construction on its holdings in the disputed region.
    Vietnam, China, Malaysia have eyes on the prize

    Explore the conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea

    Rich in resources and traversed by a quarter of global shipping, the South China Sea is the stage for several territorial disputes that threaten to escalate tensions in the region.

    At the heart of these disputes are a series of barren islands in two groups - the Spratly Islands, off the coast of the Philippines, and the Paracel Islands, off the coasts of Vietnam and China.

    Dave R.
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