New waves set up in the South China Sea will definitely further complicate the situation and again touch a raw nerve of both China and other claimants. This time, the clamor seems not merely made by those in sovereignty disputes over the Sea, India and Japan have also stepped into the simmering feud.
It is, as it were, these countries are moving together to counterbalance China and trying to achieve their goals through some “bundling strategy”, albeit each sticking only to its own interests.
As for the common concerns, they are facing the same challenge -- an increasingly assertive China. India has been busy negotiating with Vietnam over a deal to jointly explore oil and gas in the already burning sea.
Chinese newspaper People’s Daily published a signed article on Sep.20 releasing a survey of authoritative organizations, which says two blocks in the South China Sea over which Vietnam awards oil and gas exploration bids to India's ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) both come within the Chinese jurisdiction. Therefore India's oil exploration cooperation with Vietnam in the South China Sea, an issue warily watched by the region, is a blunt trampling upon China’s sovereignty.
Regardless, India resolves to go ahead with the “Delhi meddling” in South China Sea. One reason might lie in the fact that India’s strategic planners cannot help but believe China, with the so-called 'String of Pearls' strategy in the Indian Ocean, will eventually venture into India’s neighborhood. Indian military planners have been correspondingly and quietly boosting alliances in Asia.
Not few experts both within China and from the outside also echo the above analysis. A companion article in the Economic Times cited Chinese experts as saying that India's moves in the South China Sea are meant to counter China's moves in the Indian Ocean.
Some analysts have projected the Indian move as a retaliatory response to Chinese moving into the Kashmir area under Pakistani control to assist Pakistan in the development of its infrastructure in the area.
No matter what it is, India’s aggressive move in South China Sea will complicate the regional situation, strain the testy Sino-Indian ties and will eventually bode ill for its own interests.
Another non-claimant but an active player is none other than Japan. Immediately after brawling with China over Diaoyu islands in East China Sea, it is ready to take a chance to wade into the unfolded South China Sea tussle targeting China as a tit-for-tat response. Not being a party to the conflicting claims in the sea, Japan’s entry into the dispute is much likely to enrage Beijing and test the relationship between China and its newly elected government.
Japan has just held discussions with Philippine diplomats on “resolving South China Sea territorial disputes.” A Japanese diplomat said afterwards that Japan has an interest in ensuring the vast ocean “remains safe and open to commerce.”