China’s Strate­gic Am­bi­gu­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

In­tense dis­plays of naval power flared up again in re­cent weeks in the re­source-rich South China Sea as Viet­nam con­ducted naval live-fire drills af­ter Chinese ships rammed a Viet­namese sur­vey ves­sel and cut the cable be­ing towed by an­other, trig­ger­ing anti-China protests in Hanoi.

China, in re­turn, held its own naval ex­er­cises in the dis­puted mar­itime area, and ac­tively worked diplo­mat­i­cally to try and iso­late Viet­nam.

On June 19, the Chinese naval sur­veil­lance ship, Haixun 31, be­gan a five-day visit to Sin­ga­pore, which, un­like its sev­eral neigh­bors, has no claim over the dis­puted Spratlys and Para­cel is­land chains in the South China Sea.

The Sin­ga­porean gov­ern­ment, how­ever, seized the op­por­tu­nity and de­manded June 21 that China openly clar­ify its sweep­ing but am­bigu­ous claims in the South China Sea. Among the ques­tions: Does China claim only the is­lands or the vast body of wa­ter in the re­gion? Does China claim the area as its ter­ri­to­rial sov­er­eign wa­ter or as its Ex­clu­sive Eco­nomic Zone where in­ter­na­tional nav­i­ga­tion should not be im­peded?

In the same state­ment, the Sin­ga­porean gover nment stressed the para­mount im­por­tance of the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion, a sub­tle and un­am­bigu­ous re­but­tal to Bei­jing’s naval am­bi­tion.

Miles Yu can be reached at

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