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SC in crisis: the gloves are coming off

Following the events which our colleagues at the BBC and The Diplomat reported upon in their articles Escalation in the South China Sea and Fighting in the South China Sea, the United Nations Security Council has been called to an emergency session by it’s current president, His Excellency, Ambassador Liu Jieyi of the People’s Republic of China. 

The Ambassador may be regretting this decision. Granted, the Security Council is working on a document which shall task the ASEAN Regional Forum members with a multilateral and neutral investigation of the incidents. This paper is currently under review by the Secretariat and, thus, not available for press scrutiny. From what has been said about it, though, it appears to be a rather hands-off and careful approach, trying not to offend anyone’s feelings about their sovereignty.


IMG_20160421_125845.453In debate, however, China has been repeatedly put under pressure and pushed into a corner. Particularly the involvement of three nations who were invited as observers into the session, Viet Nam, Japan and the Philippines, has been detrimental to the Chinese position. Viet Nam is claiming that both incidents are related and point to larger strategy of the Chinese to slowly increase their influence and “encroach upon other nations’ sovereign space” in the disputed waters.

The Philippines backed up that notion, as the representative claimed to have obtained proof of Chinese involvement in the attack on the Malaysian naval base. The perpetrators who were first identified as “Filipino rebels” were allegedly found to be carrying items with the Chinese coat of arms.

The quiet majority of the other delegates appears to be agreeing. They might not be brave enough to accuse the Chinese of a geopolitical power play, but particularly the notion that the oil spill may be a result of “faulty infrastructure” and lack of supervision on the Chinese part is gaining ground, given the disastrous accidents that have happened in China in the past.

Curiously though, despite the fact that Viet Nam is denying and claiming so many different things that it’s hard to keep track, they are not disputing that their vessel collided with the Chinese oil rig. Now, is it more likely that the platform malfunctioned on its own or that there was some foul play involved? Keeping in mind that firefights took place according to leaked surveillance photos and that Viet Nam has taken Chinese prisoners, which options seems more likely to an unbiased observer?

However, the Chinese delegation has been very vocal in rejecting all accusations, though not always logically coherent. Nevertheless, confusing statements such as “the accident happened illegally” have gone largely unnoticed. More interesting was an exchange with the delegate of the United States who is making sure to sound very forceful. Unfortunately, the ambassador of the USA is putting a lot of volume, but hardly any content or sense into his speeches. It was thus easy for China to claim that the US “clearly have interests”, but would be “useless” in the investigation process.

Finally, a compromise and an amicable solution may only be possible, if everyone tones down their rhetoric and if the Council can keep China in the corner they’ve maneuvered them into with their back against the wall. Malaysia suggested to Viet Nam to “just give back their [China’s] property”, to which China added “and compensation!”. The Vietnamese observer will be gone after lunch. Will that be the time for China to come out swinging?

 

(c) Nikolas Schmidt, Editor-in-Chief of the MILMUN Chroncile

 

 

 

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