Wednesday, March 7, 2012

South China Sea – Asia’s Tinderbox

South China Sea – Asia’s Tinderbox
By Erick San Juan

Over half of the world's annual merchant traffic in tonnage passes through the Malacca, Sunda and Lombok Straits with some 10 million barrels of crude oil transiting the region everyday. As well as being a vital transit route, the South China Sea is also a resource in itself with an estimated seven billion barrels of oil and 900 trillion cubic feet (25 trillion cubic meters) of natural gas. (Source: Broadsides Sink South China Sea Peace by Chietigj Bajpaee)

Given the abovementioned situation, the fact remains that its still the world’s economy which is at stake here. Whether we like it or not, both big powers-the US and China are watching and suspect each other. Uncle Sam’s dislike on China’s rise gave way to more US troops in the region while China has been protesting and re-arming to counter US intervention. There is a greater possibility of a regional conflict that might lead to a global confrontation this time.

The stake is high in maintaining peace in this region. For as I have mentioned, the world’s economy will be the most affected here, not only the claimants of the disputed areas in the South China Sea. The mere fact that Uncle Sam’s “return to Asia” has added greater tensions among the claimants especially Beijing, which actually turned the region into a military camp.

Arms Race And The Impending War

An arms race denotes a rapid, competitive increase in the quantity or quality of instruments of military or naval power by rival states in peacetime. As Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr., has noted, "The strange result is that the activity of the other side, and not one's own resources, plans, and motives, becomes the determinant of one's behavior."

Many onlookers, and some participants, have claimed that the likelihood of war increases as the accumulation of arms proceeds apace. (Source:

Unfortunately, our country joined the arms race in the midst of numerous domestic problems and issues that confronts the Aquino administration. The so-called AFP modernization program was criticized due to the acquisition of not-so-modernized (actually museum-grade) cutter or patrol ship purchased from Uncle Sam. Filipinos were taken for a ride thinking that we have the capability of fighting our neighbors by strengthening our maritime sector. Translation – we are being used in the proxy war and turned into a pawn in the game of the powerful nations. Worst of all, we are wittingly attracting Washington’s enemies through our leader's kowtowing to Uncle Sam’s whims.

Every Filipino should be wary with the coming high-level consultation through a joint ministerial meeting of respective Secretaries of defense and foreign affairs next month in Washington. The so-called enhancement of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 will be the subject of the meeting. Methinks that this could only mean that the whole country will be converted into one military base for the sole interest of Uncle Sam.

Uncle Sam’s Tinderbox

In a desperate move to contain (encircle) China, Uncle Sam has created a tinderbox (a situation that is potential source of violence) in the process. According to Elliot Brennan of Asia Times Online, "Any conflict in the South China Sea could draw the navies of the world to the brink of war. The militarization of the region is a growing concern for Asia and the international community at large."

Countries in the region should be cautious to any eventualities that might provoke a conflict that will start a global upheaval. Especially now that some power blocs want to rule the world.

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