Geopolitical experts, including former foreign ministers, from the United States, Australia, India, and Japan called for a peaceful approach and compliance to international law to avoid military confrontation amidst the growing tensions in the South China Sea.
Stratbase Albert del Rosario (ADRi) President Prof. Dindo Manhit, in his statement during the recent virtual international conference marking the fifth anniversary of the 2016 arbitral ruling said, “The rising tensions in the West Philippines Sea have become more than just an issue of conflicting territorial claims.”
“The security challenges brought by China’s aggressive behavior in the region will seriously impact the future of the Philippines and other states in the Indo-Pacific.”
He added: “On the fifth anniversary of the 2016 arbitral ruling, the Philippines should be reminded of its commitment to the preservation of a rules-based international order, especially in conducting its affairs in the West Philippine Sea.”
Former Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, “Like many nations, Australia has experienced good times and more difficult times in our relationship with China. We’re going through a difficult challenge at the moment. It has become more challenging since China has adopted a more assertive stance particularly in foreign policy.”
“It remains vital for the P5 including China to support the rules-based international order as it remains our best hope of avoiding a repeat of the tragic global wars of past eras.”
“Australia, like the Philippines, is a military ally of the United States. And the US cause remains the pre-eminent military power globally. Thus, we have the responsibility to maintain capability to ensure that we can meet any treaty obligations in hope of course that no conflict breaks out between nation-states,” Bishop added.
Former Foreign Secretary of India Lalit Mansingh, for his part, said, “The Indo-Pacific region is facing a challenge from an aggressive and hegemonic China. A country that questions the very idea of the international order based on respect for territorial integrity, sovereignty, the rule of law, and freedom of access to global economies.”
“I believe that while ASEAN’s rule will be indispensable for reaching the security challenges of the region, it can no longer be seen as the security provider. ASEAN therefore needs to look at initiatives like the ‘Quad’ with an open mind. The Quad which shares its values system with ASEAN will certainly welcome ASEAN dialogues on even limited issue-based cooperation with leading powers like Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines,” Mansingh said.
Former Foreign Affairs Vice Minister and President of the Japan Institute of International Affairs Kenichiro Sasae, in his statement, said, “The rules-based international order is facing enormous problems in these maritime areas. It is therefore all the more important to uphold the rule of law and the use of peaceful means, and to reject the use of force in pursuing the settlement of maritime disputes.”
Sasae said: “The arbitration approach pursued by the Philippines, an important member of ASEAN, is based on the rule of law and in accordance with the internationally established procedures.
“This approach resonates with the directions of FOIP (Free and Open Indo-Pacific), they award a final and legally binding on the disputing parties in accordance with the provisions of the UNCLOS and the parties must comply with it. I strongly hope that this outcome will lead to the peaceful resolution of the dispute in the South China Sea,” Sasae added.
Former US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. said, “We want to see alternative supply chains or export to, not only the United States, but throughout ASEAN, and we want to see the excellent use of military assets and maintenance and training which is very important.
“If we see those, we can work together. We don’t want a war, we don’t want a trade war, or a kinetic war. But we don’t want to be subject to a country,” Thomas said.