| Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, a research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation based in the Philippines
Last week Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs unilaterally announced the so-called “official names” of dozens of islands and reefs in the East Sea, including features located deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. It also announced the establishment of what it calls “Xisha” and “Nansha” of Sansha city to manage Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea.
China’s moves have been strongly opposed by the international community.
Commenting on China’s moves in the East Sea, Lucio Blanco Pitlo III said that China’s decision may be used to support its plan of Four Sha. But none of the feature on the Nansha of the Spratly is qualified as an island based on the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. He said it is likely that no similar feature in the other Sha can be considered as an island. Reefs in the Macclesfield Bank for instance are completely submerged.
Discussing measures to restrain China’s ambitions, the expert said countries should use bilateral and regional channels to oppose China’s actions. ASEAN should request that China immediately end activities that can intensify tensions, sow the seeds of suspicion, and undermine previous results in settling disputes and building trust in the East Sea.