By François-Xavier Bonnet
Irasec’s Discussion Papers, No. 14, November 2012, 42 pages, www.irasec.com
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Scarborough is the largest atoll in the South China Sea, located some 220 kilometers from the Philippines. The shoal is located inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines but is claimed by China as its ancestral territory since the 13th century.
The paper considers the strategic importance of the shoal for the two countries. Then, using unpublished records and documents from China, the Philippines, and the United States, the author will show that the two countries claimed Scarborough Shoal in the 1930s, each without the knowledge of the other, and performed few actions that asserted their sovereignty up to the 1990s. Finally, the study raises up the lack of solidarity of the ASEAN countries, and the possibility of the United States and the Philippines invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 in case of an escalation of violence in the area.
François-Xavier Bonnet is a French geographer and Research Associate of IRASEC (Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia); he is based in Manilla.
Based in Bangkok since 2001, the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC) focuses on the current political, economic, social and environmental developments that affect the eleven countries of Southeast Asia individually or collectively (Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam). Its main purpose is to produce high-quality publications, as well as cross-cutting issues. The institute promotes excellence in research using a variety of methods. These include inter-disciplinary studies and comparative research involving specialists from a wide range of academic fields working together.
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