Media reports flourished stating China drilled in the South China Sea to retrieve sediment core from the seabed. This act of the former country arose tensions over disputed water with rival claimants Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei.
What happened at the South China Sea?
Chinese scientists on a marine research vessel used China’s homemade Sea Bull II drilling system to obtain a sediment core 231 meters (757 feet) long at a depth of 2,060m (6,760ft), according to the official Xinhua news agency on Thursday. China recently deployed around 200 “maritime militia” vessels in the Whitsun Reef, about 200 km west of Palawan Island and within the Philippines EEZ. Following which the US sailed USS Theodore Roosevelt into the waters. According to a South China Morning Post newspaper report on Friday, the US has also deployed the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island to enter the busy sea lane through the Strait of Malacca. To which the latter terms its activities as “routine” transit in accordance with the “freedom of navigation” principle.
Overlapping claims in the South China sea
An ally of the US, the Philippines developed closed bonds with Beijing after President Rodrigo Duterte took charge. “As the situation (in the South China Sea) evolves, we keep all our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other nations such as the United States,” Philippine defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said on Thursday. Taiwan also threatens to shoot down Chinese drones spotted circling the Taipei-controlled Pratas Islands.
TPT Policy Advocacy & Recommendations
- China should launch a pro-active policy aimed at resolving its maritime boundary disputes in the South China Sea. Delimiting maritime boundaries through bilateral negotiations should be proposed. Secondly, it should clarify the meaning of the U-shaped line, which first appeared on an official representation of the China map in 1947.
- While the Biden administration should continue to credibly and assertively deter China’s strategies in the South China Sea in several ways. These means include continued freedom of navigation operations and joint military exercises, stronger and more credible support for Southeast Asian states, consistent and greater involvement by U.S. allies to balance China’s rise, increased training for warfighting scenarios, and targeted sanctions on Chinese companies that are involved in the building or militarization of the artificial islands, or surveying in the waters of the South China Sea.