World War 3 looms over South China Sea dispute?

World War 3 looms over South China Sea dispute?

While a ruling is about to be made on July 12 by an International tribunal backed by the United Nations in The Hague regarding an ongoing maritime dispute between the Philippines and China, Beijing has reiterated its defiance against any unfavorable decision by a third party.

It says the only way it wants to resolve its issues is by dealing with the countries involved directly.

- Advertisement -

The Philippines have filed a case last 2013 after China has seized control over the Scarborough Shoal, where it has since built artificial islands now equipped with airfields and military installations.

Along with the Philippines, other sovereign nations have stepped up its claims on Spratly, Paracel islands, as well as other areas near the sea, the boundaries of the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere.

Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan is also among the party nations to the dispute.

To manifest its stance, Beijing announced that it plans to pursue military drills in the South China Sea on July 5th until July 11th- a day before the Permanent Court of Arbitration issues a decision.

The United States have conducted similar drills around the disputed islands over the past weeks and said on Friday that an aircraft carrier strike group is currently undergoing operations in the area.

It is not known if the strike group will remain in the region when China plans to commence exercises on July 5th.

While it may be hard to imagine nations going to war over a tiny set of islands, history has shown us how countries have waged war against each other over a matter of principle.

Experts in the region don’t believe the smaller nations involved will go to war against bullish China, but the U.S. and coalition forces will be hard pressed not to make a stand against the issue.

A no-action will definitely ruin its credibility in the region, which is crucial to reinforce its hub-and-spoke system that encompasses Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The allies need to know the United States will back them up in times of crises, as it has promised, to uphold the regional alliance system. If the U.S. does not back up the Philippines in case China disregards a hallmark decision made by an international court, it will sharply weaken its credibility.

This could cause a major decline of U.S. presence in the area, in favor of emerging world power, China.

Is this a manifestation of a major shift of world power, the same shift that had precipitated the past World Wars?

Photo courtesy: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons