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Military Conflict in the South China Sea Remains an Unlikely Outcome – Justice Antonio T. Carpio


Tensions and territorial disputes in the South China Sea are unlikely to result in warfare because of the Philippines’ mutual defence treaty with the United States, said former Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio. 

“The Chinese know that they cannot afford to go to war with the Philippines,” Justice Carpio told FCC President Keith Richburg during a Zoom discussion on Monday night. “The last thing China would want is to give the US a legal excuse to intervene in the South China Sea dispute.”

Justice Carpio, who helped the Philippines win its landmark ruling at the Hague in July 2016, said that China’s strategy rests on intimidating other nations. He described the country’s mindset as “China will win the South China Sea without firing a single shot.”

He sharply criticised President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments regarding the South China Sea dispute during his final State of the Nation Address hours earlier. Duterte had reiterated his passive approach to the territorial conflict, asking “Do you want war against China?”

“We laugh at that because nobody’s talking of war in the South China Sea dispute,” Justice Carpio said. “That’s the reason we went to the Hague, because war is not an option.”

He said Duterte’s comments were misleading, and that the president has “become the spokesperson of China” by arguing that enforcing the ruling will lead to a military conflict. 

Duterte is currently finishing out his final term, and presidential elections are due in 2022, but Justice Carpio said he did not believe that the South China Sea issue or relations with China would be major issues for most Filipino voters.

Watch the full discussion here:

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