South China Sea: borders, defense and natural resources
We introduced the EGALITARIAN SHARED SOVEREIGNTY last time. Today, we will present some key elements related to the South China Sea.
From our previous posts, we have learnt so far that some of the main concerns related to the South China Sea are:
This could be a matter of controversy. In the particular case of the South China Sea, although it may seem that borders are not an issue—as the difference has to do with several islands—the exclusive economic zone often creates tension between many of the claiming parties.
For instance, who has the right to explore that exclusive sea-zone? What happens in the zone in which to or more claiming parties overlap? As this point is intrinsically linked to natural resources, it will be examined after introducing the latter.
National defense will be seen here as the protection of any interest a State has—e.g. possessions, territory, and population—through different means—e.g. military, economic, and diplomatic. There are several States in which the army and navy are not big, well equipped or trained enough in order to defend their territory or population but they are still respected as States.
There are others that in fact do not have military defense at all, their defense being the responsibility of another country or an international organization—e.g. OTAN.There seems to be no problem with defense. The territory being defended is obviously desirable although the task is one which can be shared. However, what would happen if another party—i.e. a sovereign State with no part in the conflict—decided to invade the third territory?
In the hypothetical scenario a fourth party decided to invade the South China Sea, who would defend the area? The ways in which the situation may develop are as follows:
a) China and the neighbor countries may remain neutral; consequently the new agent would take over the area if the inhabitants were unable to defend themselves (or in the case of uninhabited islands or the sea);
b) one of the sovereign States may respond to the invasion and defend the third territory;
c) all sovereign States may respond to the invasion and defend jointly or independently the area.
Natural resources are any material in raw condition present in the territory, organic or mineral, that is not initially a product of any kind of human activity. Some States are rich in natural resources, others are not: no particular amount of natural resources defines a State. But, the distribution of natural resources is usually one of the main problems when dealing with sovereignty disputes even though the involved sovereign States may already be wealthy ones; it is a feature that always presents controversy.
In the case of the South China Sea any decision over this point has particular importance since it could affect the future the legal and political balance in the region.
This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (Routledge 2020).Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.
South China Sea and the Egalitarian Shared Sovereignty.
Tuesday 15th September 2020
Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez