Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Sitrep - 20 July, 2016

An attempted coup in Turkey was successfully quashed over the weekend. Tanks were spotted early Friday evening blocking key bridges and arterial routes while warplanes flew low over Istanbul and Ankara. However, a few poorly organised hours later, the plotters were pushed back from their positions and began to surrender as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regained control.

Up to 10,000 people across the Turkish military, judiciary and civil services have since been arrested. Mr Erdoğan claims the exiled Fethullah Gulen, who presently lives in the US, was behind the plot. This was a veiled accusation the US may have been responsible for the coup in some form. However, no clear proof has emerged pointing to outside influence involved in the coup.

The result of the coup and the ongoing purge will be the strengthening of Mr Erdoğan who has been focusing his control over the country for the past two decades. He can now arrest anyone he calls a traitor and will leverage the military completely. How Mr Erdoğan uses his new-found power will likely manifest in Syria first, but his plans for Europe will be crucial to watch.

On the other side of the world, a Hague ruling declared China’s historical territorial claims along its “nine-dash line” illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty, of which China is a signatory. The UNCLOS provisions compel China to shrink those claims.

Beijing knows it is on the back foot in the South and East China Seas. But along with its neighbour’s perceptions, it is difficult to control where fish swim and few of the territorial claims are formally recognised by international dispute mechanisms. Beijing’s tactic with resource extraction and fisheries is consistent with its doctrine of “use it or lose it” regarding natural resources.

If countries lack the means to protect their sovereign territory in disputed areas, China will oblige by barging in. While this is illegal in most cases, the country’s weakness means they do not have an ability to stop China and the US doesn’t care about illegal fishing enough to send warships of its own to act as glorified coastguards.

Once China’s neighbours construct strong coast guards, as the Japanese and Filipinos have done, Chinese fishing boats will be pushed away. Beijing likely won’t push back when this happens because it doesn’t want a hot war. Right now China is simply taking economic advantage of weaker states and will likely ignore the Hague ruling.

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