Russia’s opposition to internationalizing the South China Sea dispute and the US deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea has promted deep concerns among American geopolitical analysts.
Moscow’s support for Beijing has put the US plan to pressure China into making concessions on the maritime dispute in the South China Sea at risk. On the other hand, India’s decision to side with China on the issue has caught Western observers by surprise.
“China and Russia have agreed on the need to limit US influence in the Asia Pacific Region. On Friday, following bilateral talks in Beijing Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi expressed opposition to the US deployment of an anti-missile system in South Korea and also said that non-claimants should not take sides in the dispute over maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea,” American geopolitical analyst Tim Daiss wrote in his Op-Ed for Forbes.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has repeatedly stated that the South China Sea dispute should be resolved by the parties directly concerned, while outside powers should refrain from interfering.
A joint communiqué of the 14th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China singed on April 18, 2016, reads:
“Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned. In this regard the Ministers called for full respect of all provisions of UNCLOS, as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC.”
The statement coincided with reports that Beijing is seeking Moscow’s support over the South China Sea court battle with the Philippines in the Hague.
Nearly three years ago, the Philippines, backed by America, filed a lawsuit against China in the Hague International Tribunal Court. In October 2015 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague confirmed that it would hold a hearing on the matter. The hearing is expected to take place in May or June 2016.
“China is lobbying Russia for support in opposing international court proceedings launched by the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea,” South China Morning Post reported April 20.
Beijing has reason to believe that Moscow can provide it with juridical assistance to solve the problem, Alexander Shpunt of Russia’s Regnum media outlet suggested.
Shpunt called attention to the fact that on April 20 Moscow won the Yukos case in the District Court in the Hague; a Dutch court overturned an award of $50 billion to former shareholders of the now defunct Yukos oil company that Russia had been ordered to pay by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2014.
The journalist continued that Lavrov’s notion about “outside parties” in the South China Sea dispute is a direct reference to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague that will soon hold hearing on the Philippines’ complaint against China.
This is the issue of utmost importance for Beijing that Moscow has outplayed the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Shpunt emphasized.
However, according to Daiss, Beijing is the major troublemaker in the region that plans to outwit its “much smaller Asian neighbors.”
“Who knows what the future holds geopoliticaly?” he wrote, adding that “the Kremlin could one day regret any US detachment from the South China Sea.”
Like many other Western observers Daiss remained silent about the fact that China’s Asian neighbors are also involved in controversial building activities in the South China Sea region, while, for example, Taiwan’s constructions in the Spratlys are located outside any claimed Taiwanese exclusive economic zone.
“Of the six countries claiming an interest in the Spratlys, only Brunei has failed to construct structures, mostly on stilts, on more than 40 of these islets and reefs. Yet the western media again focuses exclusively on [China’s] ‘aggressive’ reclamation and building activities,” Australian lawyer James O’Neill wrote in his article for New Eastern Outlook.
What lies at the root of this double-standard approach? And is Washington really “trying to keep the sea lanes open in the name of freedom of navigation for any and all countries” as Daiss claims?
Apparently, US President Barack Obama’s latest Op-Ed in the Washington Post could shed some light on the matter.
“Today, some of our greatest economic opportunities abroad are in the Asia-Pacific region, which is on its way to becoming the most populous and lucrative market on the planet,” Obama wrote.
“Of course, China’s greatest economic opportunities also lie in its own neighborhood, which is why China is not wasting any time,” he noted referring to Beijing’s New Silk Road initiative.
“Instead, America should write the rules. America should call the shots. Other countries should play by the rules that America and our partners set, and not the other way around,” Obama stressed.
Given this, it becomes clear that what Washington is truly interested in is not the freedom of navigation “for any and all countries,” but its dominance in the region.
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