ChinaReveals2016 South China Sea Agreement with Philippines

China claims to have a 2016 agreement with the Philippines regarding access to South China Sea islands, but Philippine leaders deny its existence. The revelation adds complexity to the long-standing territorial disputes in the region.

Aqsa Younas Rana
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ChinaReveals2016 South China Sea Agreement with Philippines

ChinaReveals2016 South China Sea Agreement with Philippines

In a move that may escalate tensions in the disputed South China Sea, China has publicly disclosed what it claims is an unwritten 2016 agreement with the Philippines regarding access to islands in the region. The revelation comes as China continues to assert its claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, a vital waterway through which a significant portion of global trade passes.

Why this matters: This development has significant implications for the balance of power in the region, as it could embolden China to further assert its claims and challenge the sovereignty of its neighbors. The escalation of tensions in the South China Sea also poses a risk to global trade and security, as it is a critical shipping lane for many countries.

According to a statement from the Chinese Embassy in Manila, the "temporary special arrangement" allowed small-scale fishing around the islands but restricted access by military, coast guard, and other official planes and ships to the 12 nautical mile (22 kilometer) limit of territorial waters. The embassy stated, "This is the basic reason for the ceaseless disputes at sea between China and the Philippines over the past year and more."

However, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and former President Rodrigo Duterte have denied forging any agreements that would have surrendered Philippine sovereignty or sovereign rights to China. Marcos said, "I didn't, I don't know anything about the secret agreement." Duterte hinted at such an agreement without offering details, stating, "That's what I remember. If it were a gentleman's agreement, it would always have been an agreement to keep the peace in the South China Sea."

The South China Sea dispute involves overlapping claims by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. China has refused to recognize a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated its expansive claims on historical grounds. Skirmishes between Beijing and Manila have flared since last year, with both sides accusing each other of dangerous maneuvering and violating commitments.

The South China Sea is rich in fishing stocks, gas, and oil. The United States has deployed Navy ships and fighter jets in the area, challenging China's claims, and has warned that it is obligated to defend the Philippines if Filipino forces come under an armed attack. As tensions continue to rise, the alleged 2016 agreement revealed by China adds another layer of complexity to the long-standing territorial disputes in one of the world's most critical maritime regions.

Key Takeaways

  • China claims 2016 agreement with Philippines on South China Sea access.
  • Philippine leaders deny existence of such an agreement.
  • Agreement allegedly restricted access to islands, sparking tensions.
  • South China Sea dispute involves multiple countries, rich resources.
  • Tensions pose risk to global trade, security, and regional balance.