May 24, 2016
Tensions in the South China Sea could further escalate after a ruling by a UN tribunal expected within the next few weeks. The case over tiny rocks and reefs brought to the UN by the Philippines has far reaching implications. China claims almost all of the South China Sea and has already rejected the tribunal’s right to rule on these matters. Thomas Eder of Merics says should the UN court rule in favour of the Philippines, Beijing is likely to take provocative action to reassert its claims – like stepping up island building activities or declaring an air defense identification zone similar to the East China Sea. Europe should take note, says Eder, because the South China Sea is an important shipping route for the EU’s trade with Asia. Increasing tensions pose challenges that Europe cannot afford to ignore.