China Recruits Gambia, Laos to Support South China Sea Claims

China is looking far and wide for allies in support of its invasion and colonization of South China Sea territories belonging to other nations. Last week, it received its first statement of support from the African nation of Gambia, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is now claiming that Laos and Brunei also support China’s claims.

China claims most of the South China Sea and has completed military and civilian projects on parts of the Spratly and Paracel Islands. Its claims overlap with the sovereign territory of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan; Beijing had previously been unable to receive a public statement of support for its claims from any other country.

The outlet Quartz reports that, last week, China finally got an affirmative statement regarding its claims in the region. The government of Gambia issued a statement, using language closely resembling that in Chinese propaganda outlets, in which it alleged that China has “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and the adjacent waters.” The statement also rejected any future verdict on the matter from the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, where the Philippines has filed an official case. China has asserted it will disregard any verdict from The Hague no matter what the outcome.

The Hague, Gambia’s government says, “has no jurisdiction in pronouncing a verdict on maritime boundaries in the South China Sea.”

Chinese media claim that Gambia has now been joined by the governments of Cambodia, Laos, and Brunei. Brunei is the only one of these countries with any claims in the South China Sea. Foreign Minister Wang Yi is currently concluding a diplomatic trip to Laos. Cambodia and Laos are both fellow communist countries. Wang has stated that all four countries have agreed that the South China Sea dispute should not become an issue involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but rather only those countries with a stake in the matter. During the Tenth East Asia Summit hosted by ASEAN in November, China received strong public criticism from most member nations.

China’s attempts to get allied nations to support its claims in the region had completely failed in the past. An attempt to get the government of Fiji to support Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea resulted in a stern rebuke from Fiji’s government, asserting that the island nation “has a policy of strict non-alignment.”

China is also looking to get Russia to weigh in against The Hague court, as Moscow is facing a case there for its invasion and colonization of Crimea, Ukraine. Russia has yet to issue a supportive statement, however.

China’s most recent attempt at developing a case in its favor is a column in the state-run outlet Xinhua that cites obscure American publications from the 1960s and 1970s as proof that the Spratly Islands belong to China. “The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World published in 1961, the Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations published in 1963 and the Encyclopedia of World Administration Division published in 1971 all recognize China’s sovereignty over the islands,” the column claims. It also asserts that, since imperial Japan gave up sovereignty in the region after World War II, it implicitly supports China’s claims to the land it permitted to have taken away from it.

“France, as a country that had once occupied some isles of the Nansha island groups, had made no claim at all over sovereignty or any rights on Nansha Islands,” the column adds.

The Chinese government claimed in June 2015 that “reclamation” efforts in the region would conclude “soon.” On Sunday, however, the South China Morning Post cited a military official confirming that further colonization of South China Sea territory would continue in the future. “Beijing will take action to carry out land reclamation at [the Scarborough Shoal] within this year,” the unnamed official said, referring to a Philippine territory.


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