Amid Rising Tensions, World Powers Gather in Bien Dong Sea

South China Sea (Bien Dong Sea) has recently become a focus in the region and world's diplomatic, military, and maritime activities.
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Amid Rising Tensions, World Powers Gather in Bien Dong Sea
ASEAN has a great influence on developments in the South China Sea.

ASEAN becomes a 'welcomed' host

During an online conference on August 3, foreign ministers of Japan and ASEAN member states agreed on the importance of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where China has illegal claims.

Facing new global and regional challenges, ASEAN and the USA affirmed that they would work closely to maintain peace, security, and stability in the region, including maritime security and safety in the South China Sea at the ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers' Meeting on August 4.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press conference with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on August 3, in which they affirmed their commitment to protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

The European Union High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said "We cannot allow countries to unilaterally undermine international law and maritime security in the South China Sea, thereby representing a serious threat to the peaceful development of the region" at the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in September 2020. The statement is in line with the EU's consistent stance on the disputed waters. The region has been calling for peaceful resolutions and voicing against China's unlawful claims.

When compared to other associations and alliances, ASEAN does not have the advantage of natural factors (area, population) or social factors (economic, political, military). However, ASEAN has recently gained a better position in global political, economic, diplomatic, and defense activities.

To explain ASEAN's recent position, it should be noticed that half out of 10 ASEAN countries have claims and to some extent are involved in sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea. Therefore, security, safety, and developments in this sea depend a lot on each country and the bloc's views.

Amid Rising Tensions, World Powers Gather in Bien Dong Sea
UK's HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Photo: Twitter)

World powers and their interests in the South China Sea

France 'paved the way' for Europe in the Bien Dong Sea issue. France has been a "permanent power" in Asia thanks to overseas territories in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and military bases in Polynesia, New Caledonia, and the Reunion island. Paris has spoken of the potential danger of China's behavior in the Bien Dong Sea and elsewhere, including the Arctic Ocean and the Mediterranean.

France sent a nuclear submarine and auxiliary ship through the South China Sea in February 2021 and plans to conduct another transit with amphibious assault ships and destroyers as part of Jeanne d'Arc's mission. Within the framework of this event, France will conduct joint exercises with Japan and the United States. French defense minister Florence Parly said that the country's submarine made the trip to enrich understanding of the region and affirmed that international law was the only valid rule on any sea.

The British Royal Navy sent HMS Queen Elizabeth, which went into operation in 2020 into the South China Sea in early August 2021.

Germany - the EU's largest economy announced that it has sent the warship Bayern to begin a 7-month journey expected to pass through the Bien Dong Sea and visit Indo-Pacific countries such as Australia, Japan, and South Korea, Vietnam next December. German officials claimed the cruise was intended to emphasize Berlin's rejection of China's territorial claims in the area, marking the first time in nearly 20 years that a German warship participated in defending the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Amid Rising Tensions, World Powers Gather in Bien Dong Sea
India said it would deploy a fleet of four warships to participate in exercises in the South China Sea. (Photo: IANS)

Earlier, France, Germany, and the UK sent notes to the United Nations, saying that "historic rights" on Bien Dong Sea did not comply with international law and provisions of UNCLOS. The note sets a precedent: this is the first time that three European powers expressed the EU's stance to the United Nations. The note's content has nothing new. Respect for international law and disputes settlement in accordance with UNCLOS are the cornerstones in European policy. Therefore, the fact that these countries questioned the legitimacy of China's claims at the United Nations itself sends a notable message.

India's Defense Ministry recently announced to send a special fleet to the Bien Dong Sea in exercises with countries in the region. According to the ministry, similar maritime initiatives are ways to boost comprehensive strength and cooperation between the Indian Navy and its partners based on shared maritime interests and commitment to freedom of navigation.

Either strong or indicated, those statements prove that the world pays special attention to the South China Sea stemming from China's baseless claims and behavior to monopolize the region.

Sea trade plays an important role for most countries in the world. To maintain the development of sea trade, countries need to comply with international law, and most importantly, international maritime law.

Not only China's ambition to become a world power but also its behavior to defy international law, such as the 1982 UNCLOS, is threatening the world.

The New Zealand Permanent Mission to the UN sent a diplomatic note to affirm the country's legal position on some aspects of UNCLOS 1982. related to the South China Sea on August 3. The note emphasizes:

- The universality and consistency of UNCLOS – the legal framework for all activities at seas and oceans. The establishment of maritime zones must therefore be carried out in accordance with UNCLOS,

- No legal basis exists for countries to claim "historic rights" related to waters in the South China Sea, said the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal's ruling.

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Hoang Viet (Valerie Mai translated)

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