Third Part of a Series
(Previously… The Crude Awakening)
The group of islands called the Spratlys was first occupied by the colonial French at the time when it ruled Indochina. During the Second World War, the Japanese used it as a submarine base. After the world war, the French had it back but eventually had another with occupied Vietnam. While in 1946 the Chinese communist forces occupied the largest of the islands.
The occupying French, eventually, were booted out of Vietnam. The Geneva Conference of 1954 gave rise to the People’s Democratic of Vietnam of the north and Republic of Vietnam in the south. South Vietnam, who by virtue of getting the country back from the French, garnered administrative control over the islands. And in 1973, South Vietnam reoccupied some of the islands.
In 1974, China disregarded Vietnamese territorial claims and occupies the Paracel Islands north of the Spratlys.
January 16, 1974, a small group part of the Chinese military supported by warships planted the Chinese flag on one of the contested islands. The next day South Vietnamese commandos took it out and on January 18, the commandos were followed by reinforcements including their own warship and some help from the United States. In the early morning of January 19, the Battle of the Paracel Islands started.
The aftermath gave China control of these islands.
1978, the Philippines who were occupying three of the islands since 1968 officially filed claim to parts of the Spratlys, naming them Kalayaan (Freedom) Islands. By the following year Malaysia claims its first Spratly Island on the basis that it is part of its continental shelf.
1988 when China and Vietnam were at it again. This time over Johnson Reef.
Conscious of the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) drafted the Manila declaration on July 22, 1992 stipulating that the disputes be resolved by peaceful means. China, who endorsed the declaration, eventually erected structures on the Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef and the Vietnam-claimed Da Lac Reef, thus making the 1992 declaration null and void.
By September it drilled on the Vietnamese side Gulf of Tonkin median line, violating , this time, their 1972 agreement not to drill on disputed waters.
War is overrated. Nobody liked it. Not me, not anyone. I hope you don’t too. Unless of course if you have an interest on proposing one. In this modern world, diplomacy is not just another way of resolving conflicts, it is the only way.
Again, I have to step back and think that, on any given set of rules, there always are exceptions. Such is that if war is your business. If it is, you probably at least consider that you are a self-made angel of death, providing endless supply of arms in exchange of massive amounts of profits, regardless of the consequences. But that’s an entirely different matter, to be discussed on future posts.
Given the volatility of the price of crude over the world market, and the unending and nevertheless everybody’s dependence on oil, the Spratlys issue would never go away. Unless all countries involved would be willing to meet at an internationally sponsored discussion table as co-equals, irregardless of each claimant’s economic status and military capability.
All the other countries are no match to China. It ranks third among all countries in the world with the total active and reserve forces combined but had the biggest number of active military personnel in the world, with its 2,255,000 active forces ready to deploy.
And therefore China, being the bigger and the greater player who have a stake in the Spratlys, should lead the way in resolving this decades-long conflict. An unstable South China Sea would only undermine and do more harm than good on its own economy.
On the other hand, peace and stability in the region would only strengthen itself as a major strategic partner in Asia, and upholding common interests in the South China Sea only makes sense.
And instead of acting as a bully wagging its Chinese ass, it should reverse itself from a war-waging bitch to a world-class peacemaker.
Only then will the whole world look up to China as a world leader. Not because we are scared, but because we have the respect for them.
(To Be Concluded… The Insult Greater Than Chip Tsao’s)