Potential Danger in South China Sea Ruling

A recent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague regarding territorial claims in the South China Sea could adversely affect U.S. national interests, according to Ted Galen Carpenter in The National Interest.

The ruling, which completely rejected China’s historical claims to the South China Sea, was a victory for the Philippines. However, the Chinese foreign minister, in response to the ruling, declared that “China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards.”

Carpenter argues that this situation is potentially dangerous for the United States as a result of its security treaty with the Philippines. As he reminds readers, “the Philippines is still a small, weak country; China is still a large, powerful country.” Despite this weakness, Philippine leaders might take a bolder stance with China and act imprudently if they expect that the United States will be there to support them.

Linking the U.S. security agenda to such a small client state is very risky, according to Carpeter, and he urges the United States rescind its unwise defense alliance with the Philippines.

Short of that, Carpenter concludes, “Manila should be content to pocket the tribunal’s decision for the symbolic diplomatic victory that it is. The decision does not give the Philippines a writ to challenge China’s power in the South China Sea. It certainly does not give Manila a writ to do so if it risks dragging America into an armed conflict.”

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