The conflict in the South China Sea is a contest between China and other Southeast Asian nations over territorial control. Over the past few years, China has been asserting more control over the waters that were previously claimed by other countries or deemed international waters.
China has taken over some small land formations and expanded them to support military installations. In addition, the country’s naval forces have begun to more strictly patrol their claims in the sea. Other countries in the region are seeing this as a way for China to dominate the Region. The main conflict is over whether China will follow the international laws and norms that have been set(Fisher).The South China Sea conflict is a pressing matter for the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, because the dispute is threatening world peace. China’s expansionist behavior in a group of previously uninhabited islands is creating tension and starting a regional arms race (Della-Giacoma). The area is so essential because it is rich in natural resources, home to many of the world’s most dynamic economies, and an important global trade route for energy supplies and other goods. A total of $5.
3 trillion in trade passes through the South China Sea every year, 11 billion barrels of oil, and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are located in the sea. It is in a region where power politics are in play and defense budgets are rising. China claims about 90% of the total area of the South China Sea. The rest of the sea is shared by Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Tension from competition and nationalism are putting pressure on the diplomacy of the Asia Pacific region. It has something to do with China’s sustainable development, as the Southeast and East Asian economy empowers China’s international status. The United States became involved in the conflict in order to re-engage with the economically dynamic region, and also in response to others in the region who called for the U.S. to reassert their presence because they were concerned about China’s rise. Problems are arising based on the distrust and inability to define the territorial boundaries. Thus, this is an important matter to the world because it is an important area both economically and politically (Council on Foreign Relations). UN InvolvementSo far, the United Nations has not been heavily involved in maintaining peace in the South China Sea territorial conflict.
The UN’s conflict prevention powers are limited and but there are some possible ways the UN can intervene and help resolve the situation. Since the mostly uninhabited islands in the South China Sea are not poor, unstable, or undemocratic, the World Bank cannot be of assistance (Della-Giacoma). It is possible that this conflict would be taken to the Security Council but China would be opposed to this option because permanent members such as the United States and the United Kingdom would be against China’s territorial claims. Despite the United States not ratifying United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), they have recently stated that they are against China’s standpoint and repeatedly criticized them by saying they have no basis to claim any part of the South China Sea is theirs(Raymond). The International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations, has a history of settling disputes similar to the South China Sea case. ICJ rulings are enforceable by the United Nations Security Council, and are generally known to carry greater clout than arbitral awards. They could help come up with some negotiation between the involved countries and help define borders and award sovereignty to countries(Crabtree).
Other UN representatives have stated that such diplomatic compromises and inaction frustrate civil society and regional groups because world powers must sort out conflicts on their own. Bringing other UN members into the conflict to act as neutral peacemakers could lead to tensions between the US and China(Della-Giacoma). Ideally, the South China Sea will navigate the disputes with peaceful negotiations without having to bring the UN into the issue. Delegation Policy and SolutionsHistorically, the Netherlands has greatly assisted the UN in peacekeeping operations by providing military or financial support. Since the South China Sea conflict has not developed into a violent dispute, it is unlikely the Netherlands will have to intervene with Dutch military force (Lijn). The Netherlands has an especially stable bilateral relationship with China in which they cooperate in many political, financial, and cultural exchanges (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PRC). Furthermore, Netherland shares good relationships with Vietnam and the Philippines, so it is very unlikely that the Netherlands would want to intervene in this Southeast Asian conflict where they have stable relationships with all the countries involved (Vietnam-Netherland Relationship). One solution to the South China Sea dispute is to distribute the borders of the sea evenly among the countries involved.
This would be the equitable compromise and promoted by many of the smaller, less powerful Southeast Asian countries. Nevertheless, this solution will face the opposition of China and the Philippines who will not want to give up their borders and claims(Dignli). Another solution would be to implement resource sharing. This would mean that the nations would cooperate on the development of resources in the area.
This could include bilateral patrolling mechanisms, as well to deter potential sources of conflict. This collaboration will allow the nations to share the economic benefits the region has to offer This is a good option in order to try and get the warring nations to work together. This solution goes along with the Netherlands past of promoting peace, while maintaining good relationships with all the countries involved(Dingli).