Libmonster ID: U.S.-1510

The article analyzes the recently escalated contradictions in the South China Sea region. The peak of tension occurred in the first half of 2011, when a number of serious incidents occurred in its waters between China and the Philippines, China and Vietnam. The situation in this area is complicated by the sudden activity of Washington, which advocates freedom of navigation and seeks to ensure its participation in the settlement of the conflict.

Keywords: South China Sea, US-China relations, freedom of navigation, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands.

The rise of China, the expansion of its global and regional spheres of influence, and the consequences for the United States have been causing heated discussions in Washington for a number of years. The first region where China challenged America's regional dominance was Southeast Asia. Over the past decade, there has been an intensification of China's political, trade and economic cooperation with ASEAN as a whole and with individual member states of this organization, a large-scale offensive of Chinese capital in the region, and an increase in the impact of China's "soft power".

However, there are a number of circumstances that can hinder the process of expanding China's sphere of influence in Southeast Asia. One of the most serious is the territorial claims of China and individual ASEAN states to a number of islands and the waters of the South China Sea. If the situation is unfavorable for Beijing, these territorial disputes can undermine China's growing relations with the states of the region and significantly worsen the image of China that has been so long and diligently created.

Even long before 2010, when the United States first declared the existence of national interests in the South China Sea, Beijing was concerned about the possible involvement of Washington in this knot of territorial contradictions, which, according to the Chinese authorities, seeks to limit the strengthening of China's regional positions. The predicted US intervention in the South China Sea problem became a reality with the beginning of Washington's implementation of the "return to Asia" foreign policy course initiated by Barack Obama.

Significance of the South China Sea

South China Sea issues include disputes between China, Taiwan and a number of ASEAN countries regarding the ownership of the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands as the boundaries of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone. At the moment, the biggest claims are made by China, which disputes

Yana V. Leksyutina, Candidate of Political Sciences, Associate Professor of St. Petersburg State University. E-mail:

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belonging not only to the Spratly Islands (the Chinese name for the islands is Nansha) and Paracel Islands (the Chinese name is Xisha), but almost 80% of the entire water area of the South China Sea. On the map submitted by Beijing on May 7, 2009 to the UN Commission on the Definition of the Limits of the continental Shelf, the southern sea border of China is a U-shaped dotted line covering almost the entire water area of the South China Sea, with the exception of the 12-mile zone of territorial waters of other coastal States. Beijing's implementation of its claims in this part of the world, in fact, will lead to the transformation of the South China Sea into a "Chinese lake", for navigation in which other states will have to obtain appropriate permission from the Chinese authorities.

Along with China, Vietnam* and Taiwan are parties to the decades - long disputes over the ownership of the Paracel Islands, and the Spratly Islands are Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. The current structure of the parties to the conflict exercising de facto control over the disputed islands is as follows: China controls all the Paracel Islands and has military garrisons on 5 or 6 atolls of the Spratly Islands; Vietnam has military garrisons on 21 islands of the Spratly Archipelago; the Philippines controls 8 islands, Malaysia - 3, and Taiwan - one island of the Spratly Archipelago 1.

The importance of securing sovereignty over these islands for the Chinese authorities goes far beyond the task of completing the process of annexing the lands once lost by China. The extension of sovereign rights to all these islands will allow the Chinese authorities to establish control over navigation not only within the modern 12-mile zone of China's territorial waters, but also over the world's second most important international sea route passing through the waters of the South China Sea. Every year, more than half of the world's merchant marine tonnage passes through the South China Sea via the Straits of Malacca, Lombok and Sunda. 21 of China's 39 sea routes pass through this sea, accounting for up to 60% of its foreign trade. The maritime communications passing through the Strait of Malacca are particularly important for China, as 80% of the oil imported from the Middle East and Africa is delivered to China via them2.

The sea route through the Strait of Malacca and further along the South China Sea is extremely important not only for China, but also for Japan and South Korea, as countries whose economic development depends to a certain extent on the uninterrupted supply of mineral raw materials and energy resources from the Middle East and Africa.

Preserving the right of free navigation in the South China Sea is a priority both for the United States as a major trading power interested in unhindered access to dynamically developing Asian markets, and as a traditional ally of Japan and South Korea, whose interests Washington is called upon to defend. The South China Sea is also home to important U.S. naval communications linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

A significant motive for the parties ' territorial disputes in the South China Sea is also the presence of colossal fish resources in its water area. In the ranking of the 19 largest fishing areas in the world, the South China Sea is ranked fourth.3 The dependence of the well-being and sometimes even just the survival of the population of the coastal states of the South China Sea on fishing and related economic activities adds additional urgency to their territorial disputes.

The discovery of significant oil and gas reserves on the continental shelf of the South China Sea islands has also contributed to the aggravation of disputes about their ownership, the meaning and purpose of which is the desire of each participant in the ter-

* In Vietnam, the South China Sea is officially called the East Sea.

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There are no rhetorical claims to secure a larger section of this shelf. The rapidly growing energy needs of the Chinese economy make it more urgent for China to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and reduce the likelihood of concessions from Beijing.

China has the most acute contradictions on this issue with Vietnam. In 1974, the Chinese Navy established control over the Vietnamese islands of the Paracel Archipelago, and in 1988, in a collision with the Vietnamese Navy, they seized a number of islands of the Spratly Archipelago. There have also been armed clashes involving other States involved in territorial disputes over these islands. Especially many armed conflicts in the South China Sea occurred in the second half of the 1990s between China and the Philippines.

Since the late 1990s, Beijing's previously aggressive policy in this territorial dispute has been transformed into a more peaceful one. In line with the general policy of the Chinese leadership to normalize and strengthen relations with the ASEAN countries, Beijing has increasingly declared its readiness to negotiate the settlement of disputes in the South China Sea on the basis of international law and the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Particular attention was drawn to the fact that if there is no compromise between the parties in the process of settling territorial disputes, they can be postponed indefinitely and start joint development of the potentially hydrocarbon-rich continental shelf.

Around the same time, the ASEAN countries were trying to develop a specific code of conduct for the association's member States in the South China Sea, designed to stabilize the situation in the disputed area by regulating the activities of the parties in it. As a result of many years of negotiations, ASEAN managed in 2002 to involve China in signing the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea, in which the parties pledged to resolve their disputes exclusively by peaceful means through friendly consultations and negotiations between the sovereign States directly involved in these disputes.4 Beijing has avoided joining the code of conduct in the South China Sea, which would impose legal obligations on the parties involved in it.

The signing of the declaration was followed by five years of relatively stable situation in the South China Sea. Attempts were made to conduct joint economic activities in the area of the disputed islands. For example, in 2005, state-owned oil and gas companies of China, Vietnam and the Philippines signed agreements on joint seismic exploration in the agreed area of the South China Sea. However, no concrete measures were taken to implement them.

Beijing strengthens its position in the South China Sea

Since 2007, China has become increasingly active in promoting its own interests in the South China Sea, which has led to friction between stakeholders and an increase in various incidents in its waters. In July 2007, the Chinese Navy's shelling of a Vietnamese exploration vessel near the Spratly Islands caused a major crisis in Sino-Vietnamese relations. The situation was aggravated by the military maneuvers conducted by China in the area of the Paracel Islands in the second half of November 2007.

In November 2007, the Chinese media reported on the decision taken by the State Council of the People's Republic of China to create a new administrative unit of Hainan Island - the county city of Sansha with territorial jurisdiction over three archipelagos - Para-rural, Spratly and MccLesfield Shoal (Chinese name - Zhongsha). This is izvestia-

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This provoked protests from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry and mass demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2009, the length of the seasonal ban on commercial fishing in the South China Sea north of the 12th Parallel (Paracel Islands area), which Beijing has unilaterally imposed on an annual basis since 1999, was extended. Initially, the Chinese moratorium on fishing was in effect from June 1 to August 1, and since 2009, it has been applied in the period from June 1 to August 1. the duration has been increased to 77 days, and it runs from May 16 to August 1, 5. Under this ban, the Chinese authorities are carrying out mass detentions of Vietnamese fishing vessels fishing for fish and seafood in the area. Measures against violators of the Chinese ban range from detaining a ship, arresting crew members, confiscating catch, imposing substantial fines, and even confiscating vessels.

In October 2010, it became known that the Chinese authorities intend to build another 30 patrol ships within five years, whose tasks will include demonstrating the sovereignty of the PRC over the South China Sea, restoring order in the fishing industry and protecting the interests of the Chinese fisheries.

At the moment, according to the data released by the Chinese side, the Nanhai flotilla of the State Maritime Administration of China, which patrols the waters of the South China Sea, includes 13 sea and 3 aircraft.

The introduction of an annual seasonal fishing ban and increased Chinese patrolling of the disputed waters cause mass protest demonstrations in Vietnam, whose authorities, qualifying such measures by the PRC as a serious violation of Vietnam's sovereignty, systematically declare official protests.

In January 2010 Beijing has unveiled plans to develop tourism in the Paracel Islands in the context of a new plan to attract tourists to Hainan Island. And in May, a Chinese seismic survey vessel began seismic surveys in the area of Triton Island of the Paracel Archipelago (Chinese name - Zhongjian Island) and the search and exploration sites of oil and gas companies in Vietnam. In response, the Vietnamese Government demanded their immediate cessation.

Beijing is also exerting various pressures on third parties to limit Vietnam and the Philippines ' ability to develop oil and gas fields on the continental shelf of the South China Sea. So, in July 2008, the Chinese authorities issued an ultimatum to the American oil company Exxon Mobil, demanding that it immediately stop executing the agreement reached with Vietnam on conducting oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea. The Chinese authorities have threatened that otherwise the company's activities in China will be banned.

In fairness, it should be noted that Beijing was not the only one that took steps to assert rights to the disputed territories. For example, in March 2009, Manila passed the law on the main sea line of the state, which established the jurisdiction of the Philippines over Panatag Island (Chinese name - Huangyan), several Spratly Islands and their surrounding waters. At about the same time, the Malaysian Prime Minister made a demonstrative visit to the Swallow Reef (Chinese name Danwan), which is part of the Spratly Archipelago, where he made a statement about Malaysia's sovereignty over it and the adjacent water area.

Aggravation of contradictions in the South China Sea in 2011

Since the beginning of 2011, despite Beijing's protests, Vietnam and the Philippines have resumed activities to develop oil and gas resources in the disputed territories of the South China Sea. Having received official permission from the Ministry of Energy Filip-

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In early February 2011, Forum Energy, a British company, began seismic exploration of oil and gas reserves in the disputed Reed Bank 6 area, located 80 nautical miles from the Philippine island of Palawan and 575 nautical miles from the Chinese island of Hainan. In April 2011, the Vietnamese state oil and gas Corporation PetroVietnam, in cooperation with the French company CGG Veritas, started seismic exploration of the continental shelf near the southern coast of Vietnam.

The exploration activities of the Philippines and Vietnam in the waters to which China extends its own jurisdiction inevitably led to a show of force on the part of the Chinese authorities and, as a result, increased tensions in Sino-Philippine and Sino-Vietnamese relations. Thus, according to the Philippine side, in just five months, starting from February 25, 2011, there were nine episodes of Chinese invasion of the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

On March 2, according to Manila, two Chinese patrol boats, demonstrating their readiness to ram, forced a research vessel carrying out a geological exploration mission in the Reed Bank area on behalf of the Philippine Department of Energy, to leave this disputed area. In response to protests from the Philippine government, Beijing warned not only Manila, but also all neighboring states against any activity to develop oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, to which the Chinese government has repeatedly claimed its rights.

In order to protect its own interests, Manila decided to strengthen air and sea patrols in the South China Sea. On March 28, 2011, the Government of the Philippines announced an allocation of $ 184 million to strengthen the Navy and Air Force in the disputed waters, in addition to the previously approved State budget for the development of the Philippine Armed forces in the amount of $ 255 million. To this end, it was planned to modernize the airfield and military barracks on one of the Philippine-controlled Spratly Islands. Pagasa (Titu), as well as make purchases of weapons and military equipment necessary for patrolling the disputed water area. As soon as possible, Manila signed contracts for the purchase of the Hamilton patrol ship decommissioned by the US Coast Guard and eight Polish Sokol multi-purpose combat aircraft.

In general, under the influence of the events in the South China Sea in the Philippines, the national security strategy is being re-evaluated - the focus of recent years mainly on ensuring the internal security of the state, which involves preventing insurgencies and terrorist threats, is being replaced by an emphasis on maintaining the defense of maritime borders. A reflection of the conceptual shifts was the publication in late May by the Philippine Navy Command of plans for the acquisition of submarines, the task of which would include providing covert patrolling of state territorial waters and countering the underwater forces of a potential enemy.

On April 5, 2011, the Philippines sent a note to the UN Secretary-General protesting the map submitted by China to the UN Commission on May 7, 2009, where China's maritime boundary was a U-shaped dotted line covering almost 80% of the South China Sea. Two years earlier, similar notes of protest against Chinese claims to almost the entire territory of the South China Sea were announced by Vietnam and Malaysia, and a year later - even Indonesia, which does not make territorial claims in the South China Sea. The somewhat belated protest of the Philippines was rather demonstrative in nature, designed to signal a change in the foreign policy line of behavior of Manila, which is ready to defend its own interests in the disputed water area more resolutely in the future. In turn, the reaction of the Chinese authorities was not long in coming, and on April 14, Beijing

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He submitted a response note to the UN accusing Manila of seizing and occupying a number of islands in the Nanypa archipelago, called Kalayaan by the Philippines.

Manila's desire to strengthen its claims to the disputed area was also reflected in the change in official terminology - by mid-June 2011, the name "West Philippine Sea" was firmly established in the South China Sea in the Philippines, and the name "Recto Bank"was firmly established in the Reed Bank. The new geographical name of the sea was actively used at the suggestion of the Philippine Foreign Ministry, and on June 13, 2011, the official representative of the President, E. Lasierd, confirmed the administration's intention to use the new name by analogy with the name "East Sea"adopted in Vietnam.7

On July 20, 2011, a demonstration landing of a group of Filipino parliamentarians took place on one of the islands of Kalayaan (in the Chinese version - Zhongye Island of the Nansha Archipelago), accompanied by the hoisting of the Philippine flag there. This action provoked an immediate protest from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which described it as a violation of China's sovereignty and a threat to stability in the region.

At the end of May 2011, the Philippine-Chinese controversy over the Spratly Islands once again took center stage in the world's media. Manila has demanded an official explanation from Beijing about the activities of Chinese vessels seen unloading construction materials, erecting poles and installing markers in an area of uninhabited disputed reefs 125 nautical miles off the Philippine province of Palawan. After receiving no meaningful response from Beijing, in late May and early June, the Philippine Coast Guard removed "foreign markers" found in the area of three reefs within the Philippines ' exclusive economic Zone.

Meanwhile, in mid-June, China's largest patrol ship, Haixun-31, set off for Singapore for a two-week visit, sailing through waters near the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands. Manila, which showed extreme concern about this, immediately sent its largest frigate, the Rajah Humabon, to patrol the disputed waters. In an interview with the Associated Press, Philippine President Benigno Aquino demanded that the Chinese authorities stop encroaching on waters under Philippine jurisdiction. Informing about the positive results of the oil exploration conducted in the Reed Bank area, the President indicated that the Philippines reserves the right to develop the disputed water area regardless of China's claims.8

China's "aggressive assertiveness" -as K. Thayer, a well-known expert on the South China Sea problem and professor at the Australian Defense Academy, described Beijing's actions in the South China Sea in 2011 - has caused not only the Sino-Philippine, but also the Sino-Vietnamese contradictions to escalate. In late May and early June 2011, China's attempts to obstruct Vietnam's exploration activities in the Spratly Islands led to two major incidents that led to fierce diplomatic battles. On May 26, a Chinese patrol boat cut the cable of a Vietnamese vessel conducting seismological surveys within Vietnam's 200-mile exclusive economic zone. In response to Hanoi's official protest and demand for compensation for the damage caused to the Vietnamese vessel, Beijing fully justified the actions of its own patrol boat against the Vietnamese vessel, which, according to the Chinese leadership, carried out illegal oil exploration in the sea area under Chinese jurisdiction, and warned Vietnam against further conducting such operations in order to avoid new incidents.

Two weeks later, on June 9, an almost identical incident occurred in approximately the same area. According to a statement from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, the Chinese fishing vessel, accompanied by two patrol boats, was sent to the South of Vietnam.-

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It deliberately rammed the cables of a vessel chartered by the PetroVietnam oil company, which was conducting a seismological survey within the 200-mile zone of Vietnam.10 Beijing, in turn, presented its own version of what happened and accused Hanoi of gross encroachment on China's sovereignty and endangering the lives of Chinese fishermen. According to the Chinese version, Chinese fishing vessels were harassed by Vietnamese military vessels, during which the fishing nets of one of the vessels caught on the cable of a Vietnamese vessel engaged in illegal oil exploration activities. 11

Just the next day, amid escalating tensions over the Spratly Islands, Hanoi announced its intention to conduct live-fire exercises on June 13 near Hong Ong Island, located in the South China Sea 25 miles off the coast of Vietnam, and therefore warned about the danger of navigation in the exercise area. This initiative of Vietnam caused a negative reaction from Beijing and a surge of nationalism in China.

It should be noted that episodes involving Chinese ships in the South China Sea provoke an increase in anti-Chinese sentiment in broad circles of Philippine and Vietnamese society. So, in the Philippines, calls for a boycott of Chinese goods began to be heard. In Vietnam, not only have mass demonstrations against China's actions in disputed waters become more frequent, but hacking attacks on Chinese websites have also been carried out.

The unprecedented scale of protests in Vietnam has attracted the closest attention of Beijing. In a joint press statement following the June 25 meeting between Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Ho Xuan Son and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, the two sides not only expressed their willingness to resolve the South China Sea dispute by peaceful means, but also "steer public opinion in the right direction."12

It seems that the aggravation of the situation in the South China Sea region in 2011 is based not only on the" aggressive assertiveness " of China, but also on the increased determination of the Philippines and Vietnam to defend their own interests in its waters, supported by the support provided to them by Washington.

Is the US a new player in the South China Sea?

For a long time, the United States, which is not a party to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, has taken the position of an outside observer on this issue. In mid-2010, Washington's distancing from these disputes was replaced by increased activity in this area. At the 9th Asia-Pacific Defense Ministers ' Forum in June 2010, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates highlighted the South China Sea as an area of growing concern for Washington. Emphasizing the high importance of this sea not only for coastal states, but for all countries with economic and security interests in Asia, R. Gates outlined the maintenance of stability, freedom of navigation and free unhindered economic development as the foundations of American policy. In particular, the US Secretary of Defense objected to any actions that serve the purpose of intimidating American or other foreign corporations involved in legitimate economic activities. & Gates also pointed out that Washington, while not taking sides on territorial claims, opposes the use of force and actions that hinder freedom of navigation.13

At the 17th ASEAN Regional Security Forum, held in Hanoi in mid-July 2010, US Secretary of State H. E. Clinton, by prior agreement with a number of ASEAN countries, raised the issue of the South China Sea. In addition to from-

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Due to the national interests of the United States of freedom of navigation, open access to Asian maritime communications, and the need for parties to the dispute to adhere to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea when presenting their territorial claims, H. Clinton suggested using a multilateral approach in resolving such claims in the South China Sea and expressed Washington's readiness to At the ministerial meeting, 11 of the 27 members of the regional security forum expressed support for Washington on the South China Sea issue, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, the EU, Japan and South Korea.

Beijing, which categorically opposes the involvement of third parties in this dispute and defends the principle of holding negotiations on its settlement exclusively on a bilateral basis with each of the parties to the conflict, regarded X's speech. Clinton as another US intervention in the internal affairs of the PRC and an attempt to internationalize territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In X's speech Clinton The Chinese authorities saw a deliberate strategy to expand American influence in the region by discrediting China in the circle of neighboring countries. The perception of X's speech is particularly acute. According to the Chinese leadership, Clinton attached the fact of creating a kind of" united front " of the United States and the ASEAN member states to this territorial dispute, which, according to Beijing, has an anti-Chinese orientation.

The atmosphere around the South China Sea issue continued to heat up when, in September 2010, information was leaked to the press about a draft joint statement prepared by Washington with the ASEAN countries on this issue. The draft, in particular, contained the phrase that the leaders of the United States and ASEAN countries oppose the use of force and threats of its use by any party trying to realize its territorial claims in the South China Sea14.

However, due to the fact that a number of ASEAN countries expressed doubts about the need to include such a harsh statement in the document, which could cause a rather unpredictable reaction from Beijing, this phrase was not included in the final official version. Nevertheless, Washington's promotion of such an initiative, apparently, indicated the intentions of the American leadership to assume a more active role as a mediator in the settlement of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Overall, since mid-2010. Washington has consistently promoted the idea of negotiations on the South China Sea issue in a multilateral format and demonstrated its readiness to take a direct part in them. US foreign policy activity in this area is carried out under the slogan of the need to ensure freedom of navigation in the waters of the South China Sea. The fact is that over the past decade, there have been two incidents that have received wide international resonance, when the actions of the Chinese Armed Forces restricted the US right to free navigation in the South China Sea - the obstruction by Chinese fighters of the flight of the American reconnaissance aircraft "EP-3", which ended in a collision of aircraft and the death of a Chinese pilot (April 1 2001); and the pursuit by five Chinese ships of the American oceanographic vessel Improcable, interfering with its free navigation in the South China Sea (March 8, 2009).

There were other cases when the Chinese side interfered with the navigation of American ships in its economic zone and even beyond its borders - the incidents with the US Navy vessels Bowdltch in March 2001 and Victorious in May 2009 in the Yellow Sea, as well as John McCain in June 2009 in the South China Sea."The China Sea. The probability of recurrence of such incidents is quite high, since the existing ones

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Today, international norms in the field of the law of the sea allow for a fairly broad interpretation of the rights of parties in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Thus, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by China in 1996, declares freedom of navigation in the exclusive economic zone for all States, 15 but at the same time gives the coastal State jurisdiction over the conduct of marine scientific research.16

No article of the Convention explicitly states that the navigation of warships in the exclusive economic zone of a coastal State is prohibited or must be carried out with the consent of the authorities of the coastal State. At the same time, there are a number of States that advocate the principle of controlling or completely prohibiting the navigation of warships in the exclusive economic zone of a coastal state, including Asian countries - Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan and the Philippines.

The obstruction by the Chinese Air Force and Navy of the air and sea navigation of American vessels in the South China Sea zone, which has become a certain model of Beijing's behavior, indicates that the Chinese authorities have adopted the above-mentioned principle. However, although it is defended by a group of States, it does not have the status of a legally binding international norm. This allows Washington to claim that its ships and aircraft are conducting "routine" activities in the South China Sea area in international waters and the international airspace located above them, which are not subject to China's sovereignty, which is limited to its land territory, internal waters and the 12-mile zone of the territorial sea, including the airspace over the South China Sea. with them.

At the same time, it should be pointed out that in its official statements on the South China Sea, Washington emphasizes the need to ensure unhindered navigation in this area from the point of view of realizing the commercial interests of the United States and its allies, thus creating a false impression that the right to freedom of navigation of commercial vessels is being violated. In this regard, Beijing draws attention to the fact that the activity of US military vessels engaged in collecting intelligence information in the immediate vicinity of the line of the territorial sea of China, the minimum distance to which from American unmanned aerial vehicles sometimes reached 16 nautical miles, is limited.

The systematic appearance of American reconnaissance vessels in the South China Sea is quite natural due to the availability of information about the construction of a large Chinese naval base Yulin on the southern coast of Hainan Island. The US Department of Defense estimates that this naval base could host torpedo and nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles on board, as well as advanced surface warships. This base, which has underground facilities, can provide the Chinese Navy with direct access to international transport links and can serve as a hidden base for Chinese submarines in the South China Sea.17

Washington, concerned about the rapid growth of China's military potential, the real scale of which Beijing prefers not to make public, quite often resorts to collecting intelligence information that allows the American leadership to get at least a general idea of the state of the Chinese Armed Forces and assess the potential risks to US dominance in global and regional dimensions.

Moreover, Washington's increased activity on the South China Sea issue, which has been observed since mid-2010, can be considered not only in terms of protecting freedom of navigation, but also as an integral part of the "return to Asia"policy proclaimed by Barack Obama. At a time when the trend of shifting the center of the world economy and politics to the East Asian region is becoming more pronounced, the world economy and politics are becoming more and more focused.-

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Restoring some of the positions lost during the previous two US administrations in this part of the world is considered in Washington as a priority foreign policy task.

The new course of the US administration to "return to Asia" includes the tasks of intensifying contacts with ASEAN, strengthening the system of military-political alliances that have existed for decades in East Asia, and forming relations of cooperation and partnership with other states of the region that have a certain political weight and influence in it.

The intensification of American policy on the South China Sea issue can contribute to the rapprochement of the United States with ASEAN and expand the potential field for their interaction. Washington's advocacy of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, which is of enduring importance to such traditional US allies in East Asia as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, will help strengthen these allied relations.

With Washington's involvement in the South China Sea issue, the long-amorphous military alliance between the United States and the Philippines has been given a new lease of life. Over the past year and a half, bilateral military cooperation has significantly intensified. In January of this year, the first US-Philippine strategic dialogue was held, which was marked by the signing of an agreement on the establishment of working groups to study the issue of increasing bilateral cooperation in the field of territorial defense and maritime security.

Over the course of this year, U.S. officials, in response to relevant requests from their Philippine counterparts, have systematically issued assurances to Manila that the United States is ready to support the territorial integrity and security of the Philippines and, in particular, to help strengthen the capabilities of the Philippine Armed Forces to patrol the South China Sea. During a meeting with Philippine Foreign Minister A. del Rosario on June 23, 2011, amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea, U.S. Secretary of State H. E. John Kerry met with the Secretary of State of the United States. Clinton made perhaps the most powerful statement in recent years regarding the state of bilateral allied relations, emphasizing the US commitment to protect the Philippines, as well as its readiness to provide the Philippine Armed Forces with affordable materials and equipment necessary to strengthen the state's defense capability.

Playing on the contradictions in the South China Sea, Washington is successfully implementing another important foreign policy task in the eastern direction - building relations with Hanoi and finding a potential ally in Vietnam in the latent confrontation with China. Washington's recent interest in developing ties with Vietnam is due to the potential of this country, which, according to American estimates, may evolve into a "medium-sized power" in the foreseeable future, capable of having significant influence in Southeast Asia.

To date, US-Vietnam relations are developing successfully not only in the economic, trade and investment spheres, but also in the defense and security spheres. In 2005, the United States and Vietnam signed an agreement on military cooperation, which provided for the participation of Vietnamese officers in American educational and training courses for the military. Since 2008, the United States and Vietnam have held annual forums as part of the" Policy, Security and Defense Dialogue", and in 2010, the" Defense Dialogue " was initiated, which provides for regular meetings between the defense departments of the two countries. US Navy vessels make regular calls at Vietnamese ports. In August 2010, in the wake of the escalating US-Chinese controversy over freedom of expression

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naval navigation the first week-long joint exercises of the two countries ' navies in the South China Sea took place in the history of US-Vietnam relations.

In general, the frequent joint US military exercises with Vietnam and the Philippines in this area serve as a strong irritant to Beijing. In 2011, during periods of aggravation of the situation in the South China Sea, the 27th annual US-Philippine military exercise "Balikatan" (April 5-15); 11 - day US-Philippine military exercise "Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training" (from June 28); 7-day port call in Vietnam three vessels of the US Navy and their participation in joint training with the Vietnamese Armed Forces (from July 15). Beijing draws attention to the inappropriateness of conducting such exercises during periods of escalating contradictions in the South China Sea, regardless of their scale, and also asks a rhetorical question-against whom the permanent US military exercises in this area are directed. 18 Beijing also sharply criticized the resolution adopted by the US Congress on June 27, 2011, stating that the Senate He supported the continuation of operations of the US Armed Forces aimed at ensuring freedom of sea and air navigation in the South China Sea area. 19

However, despite the objections of the Chinese authorities, Washington continues to develop military cooperation with the states of Southeast Asia and conduct joint military exercises in this part of the world. On July 10, during a press conference in Beijing, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, M. Mullen, indicated that the American presence in the South China Sea area is long-term, and Washington intends to strengthen relations with the countries of Southeast Asia.20

Thus, an important component of the transformation of US foreign policy in East Asia, due to Washington's desire to maintain and strengthen its regional positions in the new conditions of China's rise, has become the diversification of forms of American involvement in the affairs of the region. The traditional approach of the United States to ensuring its presence in East Asia mainly on the basis of a system of military and political alliances with Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines was supplemented by the establishment of cooperative and partnership relations with other regional states (Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia), as well as the expansion of Washington's participation in multilateral regional and, above all, in the work of such a promising regional organization as ASEAN.

The existing territorial disputes between China and the group of ASEAN member states in the South China Sea create a favorable environment for Washington to implement the policy of "return to Asia"initiated by Barack Obama. By effectively exploiting the contradictions of the states involved in these disputes, or rather, by veiling the side of the Philippines and Vietnam, the United States, on the one hand, strengthens relations with these states, expands cooperation with ASEAN, and on the other, restrains the growing regional influence of China.

In turn, Washington's involvement in the South China Sea issue in mid-2010 led to a tightening of the positions of the parties to this knot of contradictions, which naturally led to an aggravation of the situation in this area in 2011. China, which has been demonstrating a certain assertiveness in promoting its interests in the South China Sea issue since 2007, against the background of interference in the The United States has further intensified its efforts to realize its territorial claims. Vietnam and the Philippines, encouraged by Washington's support, have become more confident in defending their own interests in its waters.

Beijing's concerns about the negative consequences of US efforts to internationalize the South China Sea issue seem to have been increasingly confirmed.

So on August 31 in Beijing, during talks with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Chinese President Hu Jintao stressed that the Chinese side is always ready to support China.-

page 40

It advocated the peaceful resolution of disputes over the South China Sea through consultations and negotiations between the countries involved in these disputes.

"Before that, the interested countries should move away from controversial issues and actively study issues related to the joint development of the specified sea area. This is in the common interests of all the countries concerned," the Chinese President said.

China is ready to work together with the ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, to implement the Declaration of Actions of the parties in the South China Sea and make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, Hu said.


1. Kobelev E. V. The South China Sea: a smoldering hotbed of conflicts / / ASEAN at the beginning of the 21st century. Aktual'nye problemy i perspektivy [Actual problems and prospects], Moscow, 2010, p. 85.

2. Chan J. US-China tensions over South China Sea. 4.08.2010. -

3. Rahman Ch., Tsamenyi M. A Strategic Perspective on Security and Naval Issue // Ocean Development & International Law. 2010. Vol. 41. Issue 4. P. 319.

4. Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. 2002. - http://www.aseansec.Org/13163.htm.

5. In the water area of the South China Sea, a seasonal ban on fishing has begun to operate. 18.05.2011. -

6. Philippines and China: an encounter in Reed Bank. 4.03.2011. - ines-and-china-encounter-reed-bank.

7. Press briefing by Presidential spokesperson Lacierda. 13.06.2011. - on-lacierda-on-june-13 - 2011/

8. Hrvoje Hranjski. Philippines to China: don't intrude into our water // Associated Press. 17.06.2011. -

9. Background briefing: South China Sea: prospects for armed conflict Carlyle A. Thayer.

28.06.2011. - -for-Armed-Conflict.

10. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nguyen Phuong Nga answers question from the media at the Press Conference on June 9th concerning the Viking II incident. 9.06.2011. - 0Tuu.

11. Official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: China demands that Vietnam stop any activity that violates rights in the Nansha water area / / People's Daily Online. 10.06.2011. -

12. Viet Nam-China joint press release. 26.06.2011. - 164203#Jhp7woP8X39b.

13. 1st Plenary Session "Strengthening Security Partnerships in the Asia-Pacific", Dr. R.Gates. 5.06.2010. - ue-2010/plenary-session-speeches/first-plenary-session/robert-gates/

14. Cerojano T. Obama, ASEAN to Call for Peaceful End of Sea Spats. 19.09.2010. - 1673637.

15. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 10.12.1982. Ст. 58. - r.pdf.

16. UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. 10.12.1982. Ст. 246. - r.pdf.

17. Military and Security Developments Involving the PRC 2010. P. 2. -

18. Press availability with General Chen Bingde. 11.07.2011. -

19. S. Res. 217. 27.06.2011. - 217ats.pdf.

20. Beijing media roundtable. 10.07.2011. -


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