MANILA: Despite territorial stand-offs between China and other nations bordering the South China Sea, analysts say governments know better than to choke off the trade shipping routes that are the lifeblood of their economies.
The escalating disputes this year between China and some of its neighbours over their rival territorial claims in the sea have led to water cannons being fired in one hotspot area and deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.
The Philippines has also sought military help from the United States in the face of what it calls bullying Chinese tactics, signing a pact that will soon allow thousands of US troops onto Filipino bases facing the sea.
The worsening rows have inevitably raised questions over whether they will impact the sea s shipping lanes, which are among the busiest in the world and see more than half of all oil tanker trade flow through them.
But analysts believe all nations involved, particularly China, will ensure that the diplomatic and military manoeuvrings do not jeopardise such an important economic lifeline.
It s not in China s interests, and it s not in the interests of Japan, South Korea or Taiwan, to have some sort of blockade or disruption, said Jayendu Krishna, a Singapore-based analyst with industry consultancy firm Drewry Maritime Services.
I m not worried. I don t think it will happen.
The Philippines, Vietnam and other regional powers believe China is the instigator in the fresh eruptions in the disputes, which have been going on for decades but have been managed without confrontation for much of the time.
Asia s most populous nation claims nearly all of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbours.
Taiwan has a replica claim, while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei insist they have sovereign rights to areas closer to their coasts.
Vietnam s trigger for fury was China s deployment last month of an oil rig in waters near the Paracel islands.
Anti-Chinese riots promptly broke out in the southeast Asian nation, leading to at least three deaths and a number of arson attacks against factories that were either Chinese-owned or perceived to be. Beijing says four Chinese citizens died in the unrest.
The Philippines has been the most vocal critic in recent years, accusing China of a multitude of aggressive acts, including the takeover in 2012 of a shoal that had been a rich fishing ground for Filipinos.
The Philippines has expressed fresh alarm in recent months after photos emerged showing Chinese land reclamation activities on tiny islets in the Spratlys archipelago.
The photos have led to speculation that China intends to build military installations on new artificial islands within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.
However, Krishna said China would be careful to ensure its actions did not lead to a military conflict that would disrupt shipping lanes, pointing out it had the most to lose.
A large fraction of the trade flowing through the South China Sea is destined to, or originating from, China, he said.
They need that for their economy.
Only war will disrupt trade routes
Shivaji Das, a Singapore-based senior vice president with global consultancy firm Frost and Sullivan, said only a war would lead to a disruption of the South China Sea trade routes.
And I don t see that happening.
All the countries have an immense stake (in keeping the trade routes open), he said.
Das also said the rules of freedom of navigation in the sea had rarely been broken by governments anywhere in the world in recent history, with those threats coming more from piracy.
When it comes to commerce, all the countries have their exclusive economic zones but they still allow for freedom of navigation of merchant ships. And that won t be affected unless there s an actual conflict in the zone, he said.
Meanwhile, commodities traders have looked at the political and military posturing with ambivalence.
The stunningly successful offensives by Islamic militants in recent days to take control of cities in Iraq has driven up global oil prices.
But tensions in the South China Sea have not been a factor for oil prices, according to Victor Shum, the Singapore-based vice president of IHS Energy Insight, an industry consultancy.
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The Palestinian Authority security services in the occupied West Bank arrested 28 activists and journalists in 48 hours and summoned seven others, including senior Hamas officials.
All the activists, journalists and Hamas officials were arrested for reasons related to activities carried out in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 50 days. Female activists and Hamas members were also attacked.
In Ramallah, the security services arrested a number of university students during their participation in solidarity activities with hunger strikers. In response, the Islamic Bloc, Hamas student arm, started an open-ended sit-in in Berziet University s campus.
They also arrested Islam Faqha, nephew of Palestinian parliamentarian Abduljaber Faqha who was arrested by the Israeli occupation.
In the same city, they arrested cameraman Mo az Amarneh after he refused to hand over the material he d recorded.
The sons of Parliamentarian Hasan Yousef and Hamas leader Jamal Al-Taweel, who is on hunger strike in Israeli jails, were also arrested.
In Nablus, the security services arrested Hamas senior leader Sheikh Nazih Abu Oun after they beat and dragged him on the ground.
Medical reports showed that Abu Oun suffered severally after being slapped in the face.
The security services also activist for prisoners rights Imad Ishtewi.
In conjunction with the opening of hurricane season, volunteer members of the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance (BACPA), along with government, community and industry leaders, recently introduced a storm surge protection concept designed to save the entire Houston-Galveston region from a direct hit by a hurricane.
In 2008, Hurricane Ike caused loss of life and more than $35 billion (to date) in property and environmental damage, even without a direct hit, said Vic Pierson, vice president of BACPA.
The original forecast predicted 25-foot storm surges that could have killed hundreds, left thousands homeless and jobless, and caused economic damage around $100 billion. Science proves that major hurricanes hit the upper Texas Gulf Coast approximately every 15 years. So, it s not a matter of if a hurricane will directly hit us in the future, it s when.
We dodged a bullet with Ike. But, we won t dodge it forever in our current unprotected state.
The coastal barrier concept for storm surge protection is based on proven technology that has been successfully used for decades in The Netherlands and other parts of the world. The concept features a levee-and-gate system that would extend from High Island westward to San Luis Pass.
– Sand-covered dunes with hardened cores would be placed on the Island s west end and on Bolivar Peninsula, thereby extending the protection offered by the Galveston Seawall;
– The dunes would connect to surge barriers at San Luis Pass and Bolivar Road the inlet access into the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay.
The barriers allow sea water from the Gulf of Mexico to flow naturally through and into the bay, thereby maintaining the healthy, diverse ecosystem;
– There would be a large gate in the middle of each barrier that would remain open to allow ship passage. In the event of a hurricane, this gate would close, thus stopping storm surge from entering Galveston Bay through the inlet.
The combination of the sand-covered dunes and the barrier gates would stop storm surge at the coast, preventing it from flowing into the bay, said Dr. William Merrell, professor, marine scientist and George P.
Mitchell Chair of Marine Sciences at Texas A&M University-Galveston, who conceptualized and began championing the concept. Coastal mitigation, which is what lies at the core of this concept, is the only solution that protects the entire region.
Press Release, June 13, 2014