Mr Paul Chan has misconstrued the global community’s reminders to all claimants in the South China Sea dispute to resolve their differences peacefully according to international law as singling China out for chastise and punishment (Playing hardball with China is counterproductive; Forum Online, July 6).
Nevertheless, this “softball” approach of moral suasion has clearly failed to deter China from militarising its illegal claims.
China’s disregard for international law as an “allegedly self-serving Western construct” has been well-telegraphed, but still rather odd from a willing signatory of key multilateral agreements, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
While resentment over “stolen territories” may be treated as a point of insight into Beijing’s thinking on the matter, it should never be flagged as a justification for coercion.
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It is unfortunate that Sino-centric apologists – including some Singaporeans – should even suggest that the state is above the law because of its historical grievances.
Throughout history, many other countries have also lost territories to colonialism and war.
But as far as I know, no country has resorted to the scale of revanchism and irredentism that Beijing continues to impose on our shared maritime heritage.
Mr Chan’s reminder that the “underlying purpose of international conventions is to facilitate conflict mitigation and guide dispute resolution” smacks of lip service at best.
Even more so, when UNCLOS – the most relevant and neutral of these conventions for the regulation of international maritime affairs, and a guiding principle for constructive negotiations among all interested parties, including non-claimant states with huge stakes in the freedom of trade flows – is being treated with contempt by a major claimant.
Where is that room of compromise which he has touted?
I urge him to carefully reflect on the grave implications for the region, the world and, indeed, human civilisation, should China succeed in implementing its extravagant nine-dash line map over vast swathes of the South China Sea. There is nothing nuanced about such an outcome.
Toh Cheng Seong