Aitken, Aaron
January 2014
Journal of Public & International Affairs;2014, Issue 1, p7
Academic Journal
Both China and the Philippines have laid claim to a significant and overlapping portion of the resource-rich South China Sea. Efforts to reconcile these conflicting claims have, however, proved elusive, as China has employed a variety of tactics to avoid addressing the dispute, while simultaneously moving to build its regional presence. Attempting to circumvent China's evasive maneuvering, the Philippines has sought to initiate mandatory dispute arbitration--despite Beijing's strenuous objections to such an approach. Evaluating the Filipino strategy, this article begins by examining the strategic value of the territory at stake, the relevant contents of international maritime law, and Beijing and Manila's claims under said law. Based on this foundation, it then argues that Manila's attempt to use legal mechanisms to curtail China's territorial ambitions is a sound strategy, since this approach has the best chance of maximizing the Philippines' ultimate claim to the South China Sea. The strategy does, however, entail some risk, because China has insisted that it will not respect the results of the arbitral tribunal. Addressing this possibility, this article outlines a set of policies that will enable the Philippines to build regional and international support for its case, increasing the odds of Chinese compliance.


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