US behind rising tension in South China Sea: S African commentator

Updated: 2016-07-03 11:38


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JOHANNESBURG - US intervention in the South China Sea issue has aimed to serve its purpose to impede China's rise, a well-known South African commentator said on Friday.

America's objective is to contain a rising power, which presents itself as a major challenge to US global hegemony, said Shannon Ebrahim in a commentary published in The Star newspaper.

She argued that the most effective way for the US was to exert control, through proxies, over China's gateway to the sea.

This strategic waterway has turned into a game of chess between China and some of its neighbours along the South China Sea which have made a series of territorial claims and are backed by the US, Ebrahim said.

"The US claims its interest in the South China Sea is to protect the freedom of navigation as US trade through this waterway, but China has posed no threat to international navigation in the waters of the South China Sea and also seeks to protect its own trade," she said.

Despite the tug of war, the situation was under control prior to 2009 when US President Barack Obama took office and announced his keystone foreign policy undertaking as a "strategic pivot to Asia" or rebalancing strategy to the Asia-Pacific, Ebrahim wrote.

"A new determination emerged within the US administration to support the territorial claims in the South China Sea of China's neighbours, it was in this way that the US was arguably the invisible hand behind the rising tension in the region since 2009," Ebrahim noted.

China maintains that, together with the Philippines, they have reaffirmed settling the South China Sea dispute through bilateral negotiations, which is in keeping with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed between China and the Association of South-east Asian Nations, Ebrahim noted.

Her remarks came before an arbitral tribunal with widely contested jurisdiction will issue an award on July 12 on the South China Sea case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.

China has refused to participate in the proceedings and declared that it will never recognize the verdict, stressing that the tribunal has no jurisdiction because the case is in essence related to territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation.

Chinese activities in the South China Sea date back to over 2,000 years ago. China was the first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea Islands and the first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them.