‘China avoiding clash with US in South China Sea’
Jose Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2016 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – China is willing to tolerate higher levels of tension in the South China Sea in pursuit of its interests but seeks to avoid direct conflict with the United States, the Pentagon said.

China is using coercive tactics short of armed conflict – such as the use of law enforcement vessels to enforce maritime claims – in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict, the Pentagon said in its 2016 China Military Report to Congress released on Tuesday.

Chinese leaders understand that instability or conflict would jeopardize the peaceful external environment that has enabled China’s economic development, central to the perpetuation of the communist party’s domestic legitimacy.

The report said China has added more than 3,200 acres of land to the seven features it occupies in the Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea.

These artificial islands do not provide China any additional territorial or maritime rights but enhances its long-term presence in the South China Sea significantly.

Within the next few weeks, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to rule on a suit brought by the Philippines against China’s claim to most of the South China Sea. Other countries with overlapping claims include Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

In filing the case against Beijing, Manila also wants to reaffirm its right to exploit waters within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China continues to reiterate that it does not accept the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal and will not abide by its decision.

The Pentagon report said the tribunal would not rule on sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea.

It will decide whether a particular feature is:

• an “island” entitled to a territorial sea, an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf;

• a “rock,” a subset of islands entitled only to a territorial sea; or

• a feature that is submerged at high tide and thus not entitled to any maritime zone of its own.

COTABATO CITY SUNOG
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