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South China Sea: The Palestine of Asia?

If we are to believe ASEAN’s Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, the Game of Thrones in the South China Sea risks turning the region into a never-ending conflict that could destabilize the whole region.

He warned the Financial Times that “Asia was entering its “most contentious” period in recent years as a rising China stakes out its claim to almost the entire South China Sea, clashing with the Philippines, Vietnam, and others. “We have to be mindful of the fact that the South China Sea could evolve into another Palestine,” he said.

Although some countries bordering the South China Sea, like Indonesia, have seen an uptick in religious radicalism, it is fortunate that a religious element hasn’t been adding fuel to the fire, as in the Holy Land. But plain old nationalism, historical grievances, and conflicting territorial claims in a resource-rich, highly strategic area can be just as dangerous. The pessimism of Mr. Pitsuwan, the top diplomat in Southeast Asia, is an ominous sign.

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