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The East Sea security is seeing unusual developments as disputes have been pushed to a new level of seriousness. Legal maritime boundaries have been denied, security maintaining mechanisms have been neutralised and the balance of power in this waters has become unstable, threatening to erode other key strategic balances in the whole Western Pacific belt.

The following study does not represent the developments of the situation but also analyses the structure of strategic perspectives in the East Sea, thus putting forth short-term forecasts and long-term prospects for the face of this complex waters.

1. Context

The international picture in the 2000 is characterized by two turning points and one major trend(1). The first is evidenced in the intensified drive to expand geo-strategic influence started by the U.S through the anti-terrorist war, the worldwide democracy proliferation, the NATO enlargement to the East as well as the unilateral deployment of national missile defense NMD system and the U.S unprecedented expansion of the post- Cold War uni-polar order. The second is found in the comparative decline of the central powers in the current world order, including the US, the EU and Japan with a “once in a blue moon” financial crisis and economic recessions. Amid these two developments is the trend of multilateralism with the rise of new powers, especially the rapid economic growth of China. This has relatively and rapidly narrowed the power gap with the U.S with China becoming more assertive in world affairs.

In East Asia, the rise of China is changing regional order. Economically, this has drawn regional economies to the production network in which China plays the central role, increasing the dependence of regional countries on this market, and at the same time re-orienting the process of economic integration in East Asia with an ever greater influence of China. Politically, this rise is sharply shifting regional balance of power in favor of China and has resulted in the lack of security due to newly-emerging problems such as imbalanced macro-economic, environmental pollution, armed races, international conflicts... As a result, with its “charm offensive”(2) to draw regional countries to its side, China is creating concerns, deepening “the theory of China’s threat”. In response, many countries have increased national defense capabilities and are looking for security from outsiders.(3)

As the exclusive supplier of the essential “public good”, the global security, the U.S has struggled to get out of the two obstructing and strength-consuming quagmires, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the long-lasting financial crisis leading to economic recession( 4). Washington has advocated; (i) Rebalancing economy with a focus on restructuring and global economic governing institutions; (ii) Re-balancing its strategy with focus on “returning to Asia” so as to manage regional rising powers, especially China.

The return of the U.S and the growing assertiveness of China have produced conflicting pressures on the entire East Asian region. Competition among great powers is getting sharpened. From the marginal position in strategic terms for a long period, ASEAN is now acting as the actor bridging regional integrations. Sovereignty disputes over islands and sea areas have emerged in large areas, from the Japanese Sea to the Eastern Sea. All the four potential hot spots in the Western Pacific, the Russia-Japan sovereignty dispute over four South Kuril Islands (called Northern Territory by Japan), the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Strait and the Eastern Sea appear to have reversed their trends(5).

In the late 1990s, the situation in the Eastern Sea was improved; especially after China had signed the Agreement on the Delineation of the Tonkin Gulf with Vietnam in 2000 and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the Eastern Sea (DOC) with ASEAN in 2002. However, beneath this seemingly peaceful surface lies instability as the balance of power is continually shifting. China, on the one hand, steps up the modernization of its navy and maritime law-enforcement forces complete maritime strategy, legal system, maritime administrative and sea protection institutions. On the other hand, China is determined to implement “two Nos”: no internationalization and no multilateralization of the dispute; insisting on bilateral negotiations so as to deepen differences among ASEAN countries, seeking to impose “setting disputes aside and joint exploiting” formula in relations with the countries concerned. So long as many provisions in the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982) are not fully respected, this position by no means reflects a “win-win” game as noisily publicized. Yet it is similar to a chess game in which, due to losing the strategic balance, one side has to “set disputes aside” which means sacrificing jurisdiction for peace, and then to accept “joint exploitation” which means giving up sovereignty rights(6) for the right to exploit maritime resources for development. Consequently, for nearly a decade since 2002, ASEANChina negotiation to upgrade the DOC into the Code of Conduct (COC) has made no progress while security framework in the Eastern Sea has become increasingly outdated, no longer compatible with the new power correlation.

The danger of losing strategic balance and the decline of confidence has forced the other countries concerned to beef up national defense capability, further enforce sovereignty rights at sea, resort to preventive diplomacy and seek counterweights. A new “security dilemma” has recently emerged in the Eastern Sea. It is a danger that this depression may develop into a storm.

2. The structure of strategic situation

The multilateral correlation is not a struggle for power in which the strong will prevail; it is not a legal case in which judges decide the right and the wrong. Structurally, this represents a complicated conflict among the players having no ultimate shared interests as well as no conflict values. This is a game in which each strategic move involves both cooperation and non-cooperation(7). In spite of the fact that the countries concerned entertain different strategic motives and calculations, by and large, they can be divided into two groups: the UNCLOS followers standing for the status quo and those refuse to comply with the UNCLOS and stand for changing the status quo.

The first move

In the context that the US and allies are bogging down in their war on terror and economic downturn, China has been using their pre-eminent power to extend their global influence. In the Eastern Sea, China has come back to their unilateral tough behavior framework which is not in line with the UNCLOS and the regional security.

1. Since the second half of 2007, China has intensified their law enforcement and other activities in the disputed areas, pressurizing a number of multinational companies to stop their oil and gas exploration with other countries in the Eastern Sea, increasing patrolling activities and arresting neighboring countries’ fishermen; conducting large - scale military exercises, and imposing an annual ban on fishing, etc.

2. In 2009, China protested against the documents submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) by other countries in the Eastern Sea. On May 7, 2010, for the first time, China officially submitted a map on the “U-shaped line” to CLCS which totally goes counter to UNCLOS principles. This move of China has reversed the Eastern Sea trends, dangerously increasing the frequency and the intensity of diplomatic disagreement as well as marine clashes(8). On the other hand, China’s claim on the “U-shaped line” has driven the dispute into a legal deadlock.

The second move

1) Since 2010, as the then ASEAN president, Viet Nam has adjusted its Eastern Sea policy, combining both bilateral and multi-lateral ways based on UNCLOS with three important steps: (i) Enhancing the Vietnam-US relations(9); (ii) Seeking ASEAN countries’common views on the Eastern Sea issues; (iii) Strengthening ASEAN-US co-operations. On the other hand, Viet Nam has strengthened maritime defense and stated that Cam Ranh port would be used as an international center for naval services.

2) Since the middle of 2010, the Philippines new leadership has sided with the US, changing their former position on the Eastern Sea issues(10), relying on the UNCLOS, claiming sovereignty in the sea area which has now been named the “West Philippines Sea”. On April 5, 2011, they submitted a note to the UN to officially reject China’s “U-shaped line”.

3) Since 2010, the US has consolidated their strategic relations in the North East Asia regions (strengthening their alliances with South Korea, Japan, Australia, upgrading the relations with New Zealand, resuming the arms sales to Taiwan), strongly “come back” to the South East Asia (improving the relations with ASEAN countries, signing the “Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia” (TAC), joining the ARF, holding US-ASEAN summit, introducing the Lower Mekong initiative (LMI), and joining EAS, ...).

Though they come from different motives and interests, these moves have helped to keep the Eastern Sea status quo in the framework of the UNCLOS. The uniformity of the moves has created a resonance directing at China’s two weaknesses which are always hidden behind “two-no formula”. The ASEAN countries share views on the Eastern Sea’s issues and the US returns to the South East Asia. China has fallen into a passive confusion with its ambitious “U-shaped line” being checked by The C-shaped circle(11).

The third move

In response, China has tried to break the status quo in the area, increasing the tension to a higher level with its two wellcalculated prongs:

1) China.s high ranking leaders have participated in a host of important international meetings(12).

2) Conducting serious clashes and incursions into 200-nautical exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Philippines and Vietnam using Chinese fishing and marine surveillance ships.

The first prong is aimed at separating the parties concerned, preventing them from taking common views on the Eastern Sea disputes, as well as using diplomacy with faraway countries to attack neighboring ones, so as to create favorable international environment for the second prong.

The second step is to deter and put pressure upon the relevant countries. The timing for this offensive was determined following the 18th ASEAN summit in May 2011, but long before other regional’s major conferences such as the 44th ASEAN ministerial meeting, the ARF, the 19th ASEAN summit, the EAS, etc... allowing China to explore other countries’ responses and to deal with any uncertainties.

With these steps, China has: (i) turned the non-existent into the existent”(13) - realizing the “U-shaped line” in reality; (ii) weakened the regional security mechanisms like DOC or the Shangri-La dialogue; (iii) Threatened Vietnam and put pressure to divide ASEAN; (iv) challenged the US strategy of returning to Asia and its relations with regional allies.

In recent years, UNCLOS’s provisions on the EEZ have created legal framework which has made a great contribution to maintaining the balance of power in the Eastern Sea. Breaking these boundaries and unilaterally imposing a new one will disrupt it. To assess the damages, it is necessary to analyze in details China’s moves.

First, China’s threats, though alarming, are still within limitation: (i) Regarding equipment, using law-enforcing ships, not warships; (ii) clashes being Conducted in a limited amount of time; (iii) Regarding the degree, Indirect clashes (such as cutting the cables), not direct confrontations (like the Sensaku case with Japan on September 2010; (iv) Regarding the space, the deployment of forces not in the direction of conflict. It can be argued that Chinese threats are aimed at deterring related countries from internationalizing the Eastern Sea disputes.

Second, by repeatedly carrying out civil incursions, China intends to send the message that Chinese threats are carried out on purpose and those threats had been well-planned, not in a random manner.

Third, China’s flash penetrations deep inside the EEZ of Vietnam and that of the Philippines and quick retreat shows that they still want to avoid the clashes with the armed forces of these two countries and refrain from military provocations and large-scale operations.

Fourth, China has created tensions mainly at sea and on the media while giving no expression of expanding it to other areas. Arguably, China wants to explore the reactions from Vietnam and the Philippines, and still avoid challenging relations with these countries.

Fifth, China has caused tension only with Vietnam and the Philippines, which are close to China, while failing to do so with farther countries such as Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. This is a common tactic of “divide and rule”, which China has been using to make the most of “prisoner’s dilemma” of the ASEAN countries (14).

Sixth, China has warned the U.S not to get involved in the Eastern Sea issue only in statements at low level (Spokesman of Foreign Ministry) while avoiding any practical retaliatory action. In addition, it has recommitted itself to respecting freedom of navigation in these waters as well as separating the freedom of navigation which the U.S claims to be of its national interests from sovereignty dispute. These show that China only wants to “beat the grass to frighten the snakes”, not to directly confront the U.S. In fact, the fact that the U.S has stated that it is in its national interest to maintain peace, stability and respect for international law in the Eastern Sea but refrains from making any specific commitments on their actions in case of violations and that it has repeatedly stated its stance of not getting involved in any sovereignty dispute, has in a way assured China.

So, it can be argued that for the time being, imposing “U-Shaped line” at any cost is not China’s vital objective. Realizing larger threats through many limited threatening steps is Chinese typical tactic of deterrence, which is used not to promote major conflict(15). The point is that China has “dismantled the bridge after crossing it”- opposing the application of the UNCLOS provisions on the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of many parties in the Eastern Sea, rejecting the DOC and the related security mechanisms, making it impossible for the situation to return to its usual state.

The primary weakness in China’s move lies in the fact that it has created a big threat. Once legal framework of the Eastern Sea is punctured, the risk of security dyke break-up across the Eastern Sea will immediately put the related countries into emergency footing. More seriously, as the strategic balance in the Eastern Sea is closely linked with other key strategic balances in the Asia - Pacific, breaking the status quo in the Eastern Sea will threaten security across the region. In turn, this threat will internationalize the Eastern Sea issue dramatically, the image of “peaceful development” and the confidence of the world community in China as a responsible power will be tarnished.

The fourth move

1) Vietnam has repeatedly protested against China’s actions and brought up the Eastern Sea issue to the 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting (Jun. 2011 in Godollo, Hungary), carried out live-fire military exercises near the coast, held the 4th Vietnam - US Political Security Defense Dialogue in Washington with the joint statement that “reaffirms the parties. commitment to strengthen bilateral relations based on amity, mutual respect and shared commitments to ensure a peaceful, stable, prosperous and secured Asia-Pacific”, and Vietnam met the U.S to “discuss the lifting of bilateral relations towards a strategic partnership relations”. On the other hand, Vietnam has still conducted joint regular naval patrol with China in the Gulf of Tonkin, exchanged visits among defense officers and sent special envoys of the top leaders to Beijing.

2) The Philippines is strongly opposed to the U-shaped line as well as China.s aggressive actions and has sent a protest letter to the UN. It has also beefed up the navy and air force, sent its Foreign Minister to the U.S, conducted naval exercises with the U.S and stated plan to bring the dispute with China to the International Court. It has as well initiated the setting up of a zone of peace, freedom and friendship in the Eastern Sea (ZoPFF/C)(16) and sent Foreign Minister Del Rosario to Beijing for talks.

3) The U.S has reaffirmed to honor the mutual defense treaty and to conduct naval exercises with the Philippines, and non-combat maneuvers with Vietnam’s navy and three-party naval exercises of U.S - Japan - Australia off Brunei coast, and to put forth the Senate and House’s resolutions on the Eastern Sea which call for establishing multilateral security mechanisms. On the other hand, the U.S has also actively held talks with China, especially a visit to China by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff M. Mullen.

The reaction of Vietnam, the Philippines and the U.S are appropriate, but clearly restrained and constructive. First, they introduced strong statements along with reasonably deterring responses. Second, these countries took the initiatives to hold talks with China - sending high-ranking officials to Beijing to defuse conflicts. Third, Vietnam - U.S relations and Philippines -U.S relations in particular together with ASEAN - U.S relations in general, have been consolidated and strengthened.

The unity of ASEAN on Eastern Sea issue, however, has clearly declined. The vague statements at Shangri-La Dialogue (Jun 3-6th 2011) and ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan’s assertion that “ASEAN will not intervene in disputes between Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan and China, but will build open, public and forthright discussion on the Eastern Sea issue” shows the organization’s confusion. These are manifestations of responsibility evasion or buck-passing, which Michael Richardson called “ASEAN’s dilemma”(17). On the other hand, the modest effectiveness of such dialogue mechanisms may be seen in a series of recent examples such as the six-party negotiation mechanism on the nuclear issue of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or the P5+1 Group on Iran.s nuclear issue.

About the US, it is clear that this powerful country has limited tactical interests in the East Sea: the main goal of Washington is to manage risks through multilateral mechanisms to maintain the shilly-shally state and avoid the outbreak of a conflict. In fact, the whole “returning to Asia” of the US as commented by international relation scholar Stephan Walt is “to ensure that Beijing is not unduly alarmed and our allies don’t free-ride on us”(18).

Which move will each party possibly take? Based on the means (diplomatic, legal, military), the space (outside or inside the EEZ) and the time (lightning raid or prolonged stationing), it can be argued that China has 7 main groups of strategies arranged in an order of escalating seriousness (table 1), in which the next one does not exclude the ones before but follows up them.

Chinese approaches depend on domestic politics and external factors. Arguably, there would be no changes in China.s internal situation which could reverse their strategic directions in the Eastern Sea. As for the US, it would continue to get involved in this area(19) So, we may see strategic shifts in the area through the vacillations of Vietnam- China integrations.

With its means to protect sovereignty, Vietnam has 5 groups of possible responses depending on increasing intensities: conducting multi-lateral negotiations, carrying out civil struggle, resorting to diplomatic struggle, launching legal struggle and using military struggle, with all the approaches complementing each other.

Table 2 reflects all the possibilities of Vietnam and China interactions. The benefits (or loses) of each side are evaluated by a scale ranged from -5 to +5 and marked in the right box, bottom left for Vietnam and upper right for China. The markings should be done by expert.s methods, yet in the article it was done by the author’s subjective opinions.

The strategic structure in the Eastern Sea as analyzed above could be clearly seen through the moves of the the matrix. The move from A to B to C shows China’s diplomatic efforts to separate ASEAN countries. views on the Eastern Sea issues, to enhance their maritime power and to

Table 1. Strategic selections of China in the East Sea




Intensify maintained

Intensify increased










civil raids into




stationing in



Military raids

into VnEEZ



stationing in




claim sovereignty inside the .U-shaped line. The move from C to D to E reflects Vietnam.s defense methods from 2007 to 2010. The dramatic change from E to F resulted from China’s serious threatening Vietnam’s national security recently. The matrix allows us to make predictions about the situation in the Eastern Sea. In the short term, one of the 6 scenarios below can be projected.

1. China unilaterally withdraws its claim about the “U-shaped line”, pledging to respect the border of neighbour countries’ EEZ in the Eastern Sea (accepting to move backward from F to E). As China has officially submitted the map of “Ushaped line” to CLCS, this scenario is very unlikely.

2. Vietnam abandons the guideline of multilateralization of the dispute in the Eastern Sea and agrees to hold bilateral negotiation with China (moving backward from F to G). Not only does this move fail to ease the situation but it also encourages China to commit more encroachment which causes greater damage to Vietnam. So this scenario that is not acceptable to Vietnam.

3. Vietnam brings the dispute to international court (from F to H). This is the option that the Philippines has proposed, which is completely within the framework of UNCLOS and DOC. However, international legal practices show that, in the short and medium term, this option has little timely effect while in the long term; the ability of reaching a dispute resolution through this means is very low.

4. Vietnam resorts to military force (from F to J). This is a legitimate act of self-defense when sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country are severely violated. However, as analyzed above, the situation in the Eastern Sea has not esca-lated into a zero-sum game. The peach, stability and development remain the common perimeters to all the parties. In other words, the possibility of the dispute being resolved through peaceful dialogue is still open; therefore, refraining from using armed forces remains a top priority.

5. China continues to worsen tensions, pushing the situation to a new level with a large stationing of civilian forces in the waters under the sovereignty of Vietnam (from F to I). In this case, although the situation could worsen, Vietnam has no choice but to fight resolutely to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity (from I to K)

6. The maintaining of the current status (stop at F). “Maintaining” the current situation in the Eastern Sea can be achieved with the commitment of the related parties, bilaterally between Vietnam and China or multilaterally between ASEAN and China, not to take any moves which might further complicate the current situation.

In both options, the countries concerned have to “ignore” all actions taken by China in the past in exchange for its commitment not to worsen the situation. In fact, at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers + China meeting in Bali (Indonesia) on July 21, 2011, the parties concerned have reached an agreement on the “Guideline of implementing DOC”. It shows that the situation tends to evolve towards the sixth scenario, which is very good in short term. No matter how slim that script might be, it is an effective measure that can restrain possible break out of the conflict. For the time being, maintaining the status quo is the most practical and safest option for the countries concerned. Yet, in the long term lies a downside, as assessed in table 2 above, status F is an unstable pareto balance(20) in which the country having the advantage can use or threaten to use the moves which may worsen or even break the current status quo (e.g. move from F to I).

In any cases, it is necessary to prevent the trend of moving farther away from the safe areas (upper left in the matrix) and nearer the dangerous areas (bottom right in the matrix), dissolving the risk of “Siberia dilemma” in which the two sides only have two options: breaking out conflicts sooner or later.


In the long term, the legal circumstance in the Eastern Sea allows little prospect of reaching an unambiguous state as has happened in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caspian, or the Gulf of Mexico. International experiences show that, in many cases, solving overlapping sovereignty claims at sea is not only an impossible task, but sometimes drives disputes into a deadlock with inevitable conflicts. However, this less satisfactory legal circumstance does not mean the security the Eastern Sea is irresolvable.

As analyzed above, long-term security in the Eastern Sea requires building a common security framework on the basis of balance of power(21). The model of the Union for the Mediterranean(22) that combines these two factors might be a good resolution for the security in the Eastern Sea, called .Mediterranean of Asia. by geopolitical analyst Nicolas Spykman(23). First, the level of the Eastern Sea with the DOC or the COC, the initiative of the Philippines on the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and ASEAN - - China cooperation in Eastern Sea are necessary, but they may not be forceful enough to prevent negative unilateral actions, especially for the advantaged party. Second, as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia has become the foundation for the entire structure of regional integration in which ASEAN plays a central role, the code of conduct should be institutionalized at a higher level and become the required standard for all the “shareholders” in the Eastern Sea, which could create the foundation for the formation of a Union, a Community or a Commission. Such an organization would not only address the ineffectiveness of the security forums or dialogue groups, but also bring about the advantage which need not require the participation of all the parties from the beginning, and then gradually increase their own involvement. This would allow them to reconcile the guideline of “setting disputes aside and jointly exploiting” and the stance for multilateralism and internationalization of conflict. Third, it must be a collective security mechanism, which has the ability to draw into it all the powers having stakes in this area, in order to ensure the implementation of “institutionalized balancing”(24). This will be an essential supplement to the ASEAN Security Community in particular, as well as the entire East Asian security structure in which ASEAN is arguably a core. It also contributes to the power management, eliminates the risk of conflict and strengthens peace, stability and cooperation in regional development.

In conclusion, the lesson from the reversal of the Eastern Sea situation in recent decades shows that in order to prevent the situation from worsening, the process of creating a solid security framework for this area cannot be left behind, but should always prevail over the trend of status quo erosion./.



* Dr. Dang Xuan Thanh, the Vietnam Institute for Northeast Asian Studies

1. Dang Xuan Thanh. Double Bubbles - Finance and hegemony of the US, // International Research, No. 4, 2008.

2. Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm offensive: How china.s soft Power is Transforming the World, Yale University press, 2007.

3. According to SIPRI Yearbook 2011, East Asia became the third world’s largest military expenditure area after North America and Western Europe but was leading in weapon imports.

4. The US was successful in changing its anti-terrorism strategy, changing from high intensity and expenditure to small intensity and expenditure in its war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. A dispute between Russia and Japan over four islands of South Kuril archipelago/the northern territory from cold to warm,the situation on the Korea peninsular from détente to burning, the dispute in the East Sea from gentle to tense, in particular, the relationship across the Taiwan Straits from tense to gentle.

6. Jurisdiction and sovereign right are two among basic rights of national sovereignty (together with right to independence and self-determination, territorial integrity and imprescriptable right). Jurisdiction is a right to try legal violations of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf belong to sovereign countries. Sovereign right is the right to explore and exploit natural resources in areas belong to national sovereignty.

7. Thomas Schelling. The strategy of Conflict. Translation of the Tre Publishing House, 2006, page 3-6.

8. Only in 2009, China has three clashes with the USNS Impeccable and USS John McCain naval vessels and the Marcus G. Langseth research ship of the US in the East Sea.

9. Vietnam has actively coordinated in organising the US-ASEAN Summit in New York in September 2010, the USlower Mekong Ministers. Meeting in July 2010, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting and the ASEAN Defence Ministers. Meeting - Plus (ADMM+).

10. In 2004, the Philippines and China signed the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU). In 2009, the Philippines did neither present its report on the continental shelf to the CLCS nor reject China.s declaration of its sovereignty over the “U-Shaped Line” and accept Vietnam and Malaysia.s invitation to involve in the their joint extended continental shelf submission but oppose Vietnam and Malaysia’s joint submission.

11. The term “C-Shaped Encirclement” was put forth by Chinese Airforce Colonel Dai Xu in the book “C-Shaped Encirclement: China’s Breakthrough Under Internal and External Problems” published in 2009 to describe what the writer thought was the US’s plot to lure a number of countries in the region to build the posture it created to contain China (Seeing Yangyi, Navigating Stormy Waters// China Security, Vol. 6, No. 3, 2010, pages 43-50.

12. Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the US (February 2011). The visit to the US by Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Chen Bingde (May 2011), Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to Indonesia and Malaysia (April 2011) and his attendance at the fourth China-Japan-Republic of Korea Trilateral Summit in Tokyo (May 2011). China’s relationship with Myanmar was cemented by Jia Qinglin’s visit to Myanmar (April 2011) and Myanmar President Thein Sein’s visit to China (May 2011). Defence Minister Liang Guang Lie.s visit to Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines (May 2011) and President Hu Jintao’s visit to Russia and Kazakhstan (June 2011).

13. “Make something out of nothing” from Sun Zi Bing Fa (or the Art of War in English).

14. Le Hong Nhat, Vietnam and the Philippine dilemma and new opportunities// www.tuanvietnam.

15. Thomas Schelling, op.cit, pages 52-64. Strategy to “split into the small ones to threaten the large” will further analyzed in details in part 3.

16. Roy C. Mabasa. Startlys Gambit//The Manila Bulletin, June 10, 2011.

17. Michael Richardson. ASEAN dilemma in South China Sea//Straits Time, July 4, 2011.

18. There are three suppositions attaching China’s recent hard external step to its internal affairs situation: 1) The military circle wants to take advantage of external issue to build its reputation to consolidate its position in the country before the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012; 2) This is a “spontaneous activity” of localities; 3) Senior leaders want to direct pressing domestic opinions to external hot issues. There are three reasons that aforementioned suppositions have less foundations. Firstly, the coordination between many agencies and forces in activities causing tensions in the East Sea showed that this is a well-organised campaign under the entire leadership. Secondly, it is a fairly long time from now until the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China so tensions in the East Sea can not last too long to attract the public opinion’s attention in the try. Thirdly, the hostile and unstable international and regional environment is extremely unfavourable, even dangerous for a great significant political event - the Communist Party of China Congress.

19. The 2010 US national security strategy and the US latest steps such as consolidating strategic partnership with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and India, promote selling weapons to Taiwan, beefing up cooperation with ASEAN member countries, etc continue to prove this tendency.

20. In a strategic game, Pareto balance is a situation in which no party can unilaterally increase its interest without causing damages to other remaining parties. Unstability reflects all parties’ motives to change the status quo. (Reference to Avinash K. Dixit, Barry J. Nalebuff, Strategic Thinking, Translation of the Social Science Publishing House, Hanoi, 2010).

21. Fidel Ramos’ theoretical point (2011) said that only balancing interests of all concerned parties can guarantee stability in the East Sea (without the need of balancing power) and can not solve the issues of China’s interest in the territorial waters being widened.

22. The Mediterannean Alliance is an organisation comprising 27 European countries and 16 countries from Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Bankalns and was upgraded into the Euro-Mediterannean Partnership Organisation in 2008. Its four cooperation fields are politics-security, economics-trade, socio-culture and law with its summit held biennially and its secretariat is the key leading structure.

23. Tetsuo Kotani. Why China Wants South China Sea//The Diplomat, July 18, 2011.

24. Chales A. Kupchan, Clifford A. Kupchan. The Promise of Collective Security//International Security, Vol. 20, No. 1, Summer 1995, pp. 52-61.


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Dang Xuan Thanh. Double Bubbles - Finance and hegemony of the US, International Research Magazine, No. 4, 2008.

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