tv Inside Story Al Jazeera November 2, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm EST
thank you very much. (laughter). ♪ you are a huge country, feeling its oats, richer, more powerful, more confident. you want to change the boundaries of your territorial waters and you neighbors around happy. china is testing the proposition that might makes right. could it also set off a war? a new line in the water. it's the inside story. ♪
>> welcome to "inside story," i'm ray suarez. china has been taking specks of rocks and reefs in the south china sea and building them up into the waters. they build runways and docks and plants its mrflag. what is open ocean? what is an international waterway, and what is territorial water? china is rewriting world maps and demanding that its neighbors and powers like the united states recognize its claims. we'll begin our look at new lines in the water with patricia sabga. >> reporter: satellite photos of china gaining ground. island building to cement its claim over disputed territories in the south china sea,
washington has challenged the muscle flexing its muscles by sending a vessel into the waters. >> we have said and we are acting on the basis of saying we will lie, and sale wherever it admits. >> translator: the actions of the u.s. warship threatens china's sovereignty and security interests, and danger the personnel and security on the reef. >> reporter: one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, six nations have competing claims. footholds for asserting rights over rich fishing grounds and potentially vast reserves of oil and gas. other countries have been
building outposts in the sea for years, a fact beijings supporters say is not reflected in u.s. rhetoric. >> way before china's construction, countries like vietnam, the philippines, and malaysia, they always have more construction than china has ever started. >> reporter: a power play that has seen washington move from verbal reproaches to an actual parade of power with a u.s. warship. washington says it doesn't take sides in any sea. moves beijing's official news agency describes as gimmick.
patricia sabga. >> joining me is greg poling director of the asian maritime transparency initiative. gordon change a contributor of force and associate editor of the diplomat. is there a court or arby for when you want to change the lines governing what belongs to who. >> yes, but they require all sides to agree with it. the overall governing arcticture of ocean, says you have do
compulsory courts. this is what the philippines has started to take china too. so far the case has been moving forward, but there has only been one set of lawyers in the room. >> what is the practical consideration here? people say you can't build your own islands and say that's your own country. but what really is at steak when we see all of these countries scrambling for territory in the south china sea. >> there's also the military balance of power, and the reality is that none of these individual claimants whether it malaysia or vietnam or philippines can challenge china in terms of their military power. so many china chooses to ignore the ruling of the court once
they differ their decision in the middle of next year, china can pursue whatever it wants to pursue in the south china sea out of military might. so the question is whether china wants to bring its claims in the south china sea as all of these other actors want to. but beijing can ignore this, and go ahead with a military operation. >> china knows it would lose. the 9-dash line, these dashes they have drawn on maps in the last 80 years or so that say we control 80% of the sea. they know they lose on .1 the day they walk in the door. gordon are we looking at a china is a just feeling stronger
and testing the waters, so to speak? >> i think that that is absolutely right. you have a new-ish chinese leader who is asserting power. he is also highly depend dependant on the military. and they have been very supportive on claims. you also have a chinese communist party that is increasingly insecure with an economy that is falling apart. and this is an extremely toxic brew because it means that china believes that american can sail it's waters, and also that no one can sail within 12 nautical miles of their reclamations even though those are clearly international water.
this is a very aggressive and inconsistent beijing. >> isn't this partially driven by it's largely thought that there is a lot of oil sitting underthere. >> yes. there are a variety of estimates. and also fisheries which are sort of the source of livelihood for some fishermen in these southeast asian countries. so it's not only a question of national sovereignty, but also a question of how you coordinate all of the stakeholders. so there is always a risk that if you have some of these stakeholders like individual fishermen there might be some potential incidents that will cause these nations to react as well. >> isn't it a very busy piece of worldwide commercial sea lane?
paths in, paths, out, it's a busy highway. >> yes, $5.3 trillion of commerce each and every year on and over the south china sea. if there were not a drop of oil or gas in the south china sea, china would still want it. they have made it clear that there's no compromise. so it's no so much a question of natural resources. it is there because they believe it is theirs, they have sovereignty, so they are not going to give up. >> when we come back, if a country like china unilaterally takes control of a sea lane, how should the rest of the world respond? a new line in the water, it's "inside story."
>> ali velshi, lifting the lid... >> cameras in place for money and not safety. >> on the red light controversy. >> they don't give two cent about your safety. >> there's an increase in rear end accidents. >> ali velshi on target: hitting the breaks. welcome back to "inside story," i'm ray suarez. an american guide missile destroyer, recently passed by the reef, one of the ocean outcroppings china has declared
national territory. the chinese say the ship illegally entered the watered. in response u.s. authorities say they have no intention of curtailing the movement of u.s. ships through the territory. they call the sailing of the ship a bit of jargon. a group of ships passed near alaska without a peep from the americans. is this a tit-for-tat, the pushing and shoving that countries engage in. my guests are still with me, and does it weaken the american argument here? we heard ash carter talking about how the united states would proceed wherever international law permits.
the united states didn't sign the international waters treaty did it? >> it signed it. it couldn't ratify it because of the congress. but every branch of the u.s. government operates as if it were in effect. everybody who is not a small group of [ inaudible ] operates as if it were in effect. and more importantly, the vast majority of this stuff has been ruled matters of customary u.s. law, meaning it applies to everybody. especially things like what is an island and what isn't an e eye -- island. all of that applies to the u.s. >> gordon chang are all of these
countries waiting for u.s. to keep these sea lanes open. >> they have been asking the united states to actually show some leadership. and that's what sectarian clinton did in 2010, where she said the settlement of claims in the south china sea, was a u.s. national interest. countries in the region don't want to challenge china. they would like the united states to do it. and that's what we're seeing. and right now countries have even sort of pushed the u.s. harder, largely because they have become much more concerned about a very provocative and bigger beijing.
>> but in a schoolyard, saying you go ahead and punch him, that isn't good for international law, is it? >> absolutely. these countries do want the united states to play a stronger role and assist them in capacity-building efforts and so on and so forth. because they can't individually challenge china. but they do not want the united states and china to engage in any sort of conflict. >> is that a risk here? >> so, my understanding and understanding of many international observers is that, a, this is a very routine operation, and the united states is doing what it has been doing all along. but that's not the perspective that china shares. and if we see future operations in the south china sea, and
further patrols by japan and other actors, there's a real risk that they could take counter measures. and that would be unfortunate for many in the region. china is the top trading partner of several of these southeast asia country. >> i understand that china doesn't have the kind of naval to enforce what they are insisting is their territory in the south china sea. does a one aircraft carrier hack it. >> no, they view it as an issue of will. they believe the united states is in terminal decline, and therefore they can push around the u.s.
and that's why we heard the head of china's navy threaten war against the united states if they continued with these freedom of navigation exercises. so it's not our navy, their navy, it's basically we are china, o you are not. >> a sizable chunk of the world's commerce passes three the south china sea. they are relying on the united states to keep the south china sea open, to a void propoking their neighbor themselves. the freedom of the seas in asia, align in the water. it's "inside story."
to maintain the status quo in the south china sea, one important bystanders are the countries bordering the region. the list includes fast-growing trading nations, china enemies, and long-time american friends. what is their stake and their role? my guests are with me, and who has got a lot to lose here in. >> so there's four southeast asian states that have claims to the south china sea. indonesia is an interest party because china's nine-dash line claim does overlap the waters. and you have a number of other
countries as well that have an interest in peace and stability, for example, singapore. but the block has drieded us. some are claimants others are not. some are closer to china, others are not. but there is a basic position with respect to maintaining peace and stability in the south china sea, as well as the code of conduct. and china's actions in the south china sea have been clearly in violation of the agreement. and these countries also have a stake in terms of what kind of china they want to see in their neighborhood. it's a an issue about the future of china, and it's rise in the region. and since these countries are in the neighborhood, they will want to see this as a test case for
how china behaves in the future. >> gordon if china wanted to continue its claims, could they use it to pressure taiwan? much of what taiwan sends to the rest of the world passing through there. >> certainly. and they get much of their energy through ships that go through the area. especially now when we're going to have a change of administration in taiwan from a beijing-friendly government to one that is maybe not so friendly. so i think there will be much more friction after a new government is elected in taipei. >> greg, can the world just refuse to pay any attention to this? can people just go on with their old maps up in the wheelhouse
and just act like china is not doing what china is doing? >> no, i don't think so. and the reason you have the u.s. so involved and interested parties like australia, japan, now the european union issues statements in support of these operations, is because this is seen as a test case of one, how is a rising china going to behave? it will be one that wants to change the rules that the rest of the world spent the entire post-war era building? and why would anybody restrict themselves at 12-miles if they do this? >> you were talking about the troubles in china, does that make them more likely to assert these claims or less? sometimes countries operate to
show strength when they are feeling most weak. >> it really depends upon how the internal crises carry out. if the economy falls apart in a flash, which i think is the more probable scenario, beijing doesn't have the time to strengthen its legitimacy. but if the economic and political crisis are long and drawn out, then clearly beijing is going to do something to create problems abroad, because that is the best way to strengthen their hand at home. and it is going to be very much an issue of how things go on inside of china, which right now is really freightening in terms of the money coming out of the country. so this is a serie issue we need to look at inside china and then see its effects inside china.
>> is slow safe and fast scary? >> as far as development of the dispute? >> this dispute. >> yeah, i think anybody who thinks there is a short-term resolution is fooling themselves. this has been a decade's long dispute. it is going to continue to be a years long dispute. we need to measure in years and months not days and week -- weeks. >> and the players in the region. >> we have the philippine case which we'll probably have a ruling sometime next year. but we'll see if china uses that as an excuse to bring itself into compliance with the law. >> i want to thank my guests.
i'll be back in a moment with a final thought on power, water, and enlightened self interest. stay with us. it's "inside story." and send us your thoughts on twitter or follow me and get in touch, or visit our facebook page and tell us what you think of the growing tensions in the south china sea. we would love to hear from you.
for centuries powerful nations have thrown their weight around, trying to enforce their vision of reality on weaker neighbors, or even daring peer powers to take them stop. as in oh, yeah, make me? i can't bring myself to act like this is some bridge too far in the world of muscle. china is trying to see what it can get away with, and this is gut-check time, because other nations can't overreact, because china's new line in the water only become real in other
countries act like it's real. you can't just decide you are extending your territorial waters right up to the marine borders. no the reef is not land. no chinese territory waters don't begin hundreds and hundreds of miles from china and only a few miles from the philippine shores. china finally seized tibet in the 50s. morocco seized a region, and the people of the region fought back, but who pays much attention now. in other words these things work if the world lets them. so keep an eye on the south china sea, it may end up being an interesting part of the 21st
century. i'm ray suarez. that's the "inside story." and the news continues right now. this is al jazeera america. live from new york city. i'm richelle carey, tony harris is on assignment. searching for clues, investigators are trying to figure out what brought down the russian airliner. a jury of your peers or not. the supreme court takes on racial discrimination. quentin