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A Line In the Sea

How the Philippines Decision Could Settle the South China Sea

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. U.S. Navy

Some skirmish in the South China Sea could well become for Asia in the twenty-first century what the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was for Europe in 1914—a trigger for a broader conflict between a rising power and the established order. And such a scenario looks all the more likely after the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which negated the very basis of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing’s response in the weeks that followed—nationalist venting and overt rejection of the ruling through military exercises—undermines once and for all China’s claims about its peaceful rise. China’s Supreme People’s Court even issued its own counter-Hague ruling, threatening to arrest any intruders into its claimed South China Sea territories. China is relatively calm now, but judging by the reception during U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice’

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