Tensions are now increasing between China and the Philippines over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The dispute could stir up anxiety in Southeast Asia and prompt the Philippines to increase security cooperation with the United States, analysts say.
“What China is doing is putting the Philippines in a position that it can’t de-escalate without risking international humiliation, so the Philippines is now acting in a way designed to project power,” Justin Baquisal, a Manila-based geopolitical analyst, told VOA in an interview. telephone.
The latest row comes after the Philippine military accused Chinese coast guard vessels of harassing its supply vessels and spraying Filipino vessels with water cannons.
Manila said the Chinese coast guard’s move was “excessive and offensive,” while Beijing insisted it was exercising “rational restraint.”
At the root of the dispute is a World War II-era warship, Sierra Madre, which the Philippines deliberately moored at the Second Thomas Shoal (a reef/shallow area called Second Thomas) as a military outpost to protect its territorial claims. The disputed reef lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and Manila regularly rotates troops at the outpost.
While Beijing has repeatedly urged Manila to withdraw the ship, the Philippines has vowed to fight back if China tries to remove the Sierra Madre by force.
Experts say China has adopted a blockade strategy to control material reaching the Second Thomas Shoal.
That strategy raises the possibility that China can outlast the Philippines in its jockeying for control of the disputed reef.
“Second Thomas Shoal is sparsely manned, and the makeshift military outpost that was built there is falling apart,” Ray Powell, head of Project Myoushu (South China Sea) at Stanford University, told VOA.
With conditions in the Sierra Madre deteriorating, Powell warned that China’s takeover of the Second Thomas Shoal would be inevitable unless Manila adopted a different strategy to maintain control of the disputed reef. “This ship cannot last forever, and the platform on which the outpost was built will eventually disappear,” he explained. (lt/ka)