East Sea: Dangerous Trend of Militarization
VietNamNet Bridge - The coastal states can make their choices: to act unilaterally, to enhance maritime security, and drag the whole region into conflict; or to build principles, institutions and define open access issues. The growing unilateral, and militarization trend in the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea) is a threat to security throughout the region.

This was the opinion of international experts in a recent workshop on the East Sea disputes [1].

International law and ASEAN


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The outcome of the cases against China of the Philippines on the East Sea has made a major impact on the process of direction changing to create pressure to force China to comply with international law. The technical characteristics relating to the legal changes in the field, the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, the overlapping region and the next scenarios that likely occur is the result brought about by the lawsuit.

Somewhat, following the ruling, the US - China relations are changing into new interactive positions, through a series of bilateral agreements provided for appropriate behavior between the two sides within each specific sector.

The US - China will compete, leading to direct or indirect confront, or compromise based on sharing the interests of smaller countries are still the scripts that are necessary to be specified. Since then we can weigh positive or negative factors on the countries concerned and propose appropriate policies to the regional countries.

ASEAN's role as well as the relations between this bloc with China is an important factor. ASEAN is gradually becoming the center of the world. Many scholars said that ASEAN is a huge market and is important for big countries like the US, China or Japan. ASEAN is the reason of the competition between the US and China.

Currently, there are conflicts between China and some countries but these conflicts tend to decrease, not increase. If the East Sea becomes a permanent operation in the approach to the ASEAN of member countries, we will see an ASEAN with two versions as the concerns of many scholars.


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Satellite image taken on February 14 (left) shows a number of surface-to-air missile launchers on Vietnam's Phu Lam (Woody) island. Photo: ImageSat International



The first is a consensus ASEAN, with the respect and support of the major powers outside the region. This version will take place mainly in the economic field, and in cooperation on unthorny issues.

Conversely, for the security issues and the issues that likely cause conflicts, ASEAN may lose its role as a "rider" or an organization to coordinate strategy security issues in the area.

"Obviously the Chinese operations have led to increasing militarization of the other countries, because if they do not pursue that policy, China will do more." That is the view of Dr. Collin Koh Swee Lean, from the National Defense and Strategy Studies Institute, Nanyang University, Singapore, for the militarization trends in the East Sea.

When experts raise two hypotheses on the outcome of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling, concerning about escalated regional tensions or creating a legal basis for the countries concerned, Prof. Edward Miller, Dartmouth College, the United States questioned why countries in the region are implementing militarization. He also questioned whether the installation of marine surveillance systems is a controversial self-defense action and the PCA’s rulings create which legal rights for countries to object China’s actions.


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Answering these questions, Collin said that the agreements and treaties can only ensure that conflicts will not escalate into wars. In the current situation, not only China but other countries have set up maritime surveillance systems for learning about the operations of their opponents and to protect their interests. In addition, the growing tension in the region is because the East Sea is a "hot spot" that China is apparently trying to control.

Regarding the controversy surrounding maritime surveillance systems, Collin said that any action that takes place on the sea at this time will be also controversial.

"The militarization of China and the countries concerned stems from the lack of mutual trust, similar to what happened during the Cold War ... This is a problem that will make the tension in the East Sea to escalate," Dr. Collin said.

Dr. Collin Koh Swee Lean:

In recent years, China has promoted militarization, and other countries in the region did the same. But these countries realize that they cannot keep the same pace with China's militarization. Therefore, they have their own militarized policy, enough to ensure their strength and position.

It is clear that the activities of China have led to increasing militarization of other countries, because if they do not pursue that policy, China will do more. Secondly, while China accuse and criticized neighboring countries, they themselves are the ones who promote militarization first. Their criticism is based on subjective arguments rather than real data.



Minh Vy

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[1] The seminar "Two months after the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration: Discuss some policy issues" held at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities – HCM City on September 22.

Dr. Collin Koh Swee Lean: In recent years, China has promoted militarization, and other countries in the region did the same. But these countries realize that they cannot keep the same pace with China's militarization. Therefore, they have their own mili
 
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