The smell of sizzling eggplants and bell peppers brought life to the kitchen. China was just about to pour the rice wine vinegar and brown sugar sauce over his saute when sudden lute music jarred him out of his tranquil state. After brushing his hands against his apron, he grabbed his cellphone from the counter.
“Vietnam, you may have caught me at a bad time.”
“July 12th. That’s when the decision will be made?”
For three years, Philippines has been trying to win a case in the international court against China. Vietnam, naturally, supported her in this endeavor. They, like most of Southeast Asia, believed China’s claim to the South China Sea was unnecessarily aggressive at best and criminal at worst.
For three years, China has refused to participate in that nonsense. Now, he didn’t really have a choice.
“You sound as if you were already aware.” He then turned most of his attention back to cooking, loathe to let a perfectly good dish burn.
“I’m not participating as a judge,” Vietnam said, characteristically terse. “But if I were, I would make sure to reiterate Philippines’ claim that you’re a territorial, chauvinistic bastard.”
“I apologize. That was harsh. What I mean to say is that all we want is a fair and objective ruling.”
“I am not sure the Permanent Court of Arbitration understands the concepts of ‘fair’ and ‘objective.'”
“What a stunning similarity to yourself, China.”
“Why did you call me, Vietnam?” China asked as he silently noted how his blood pressure was starting to rise in a fashion similar to the steam from his dish.
“To wish you good luck.”
She hung up and China was left staring at his phone until the piping scream of a kettle reminded him of his surroundings.
North Korea always, without fail, had a way of knowing when China was stressed out. North Korea always, without fail, had a way of making it worse.
“How does it feel to be the most hated country in East Asia?” He asked the moment he walked into China’s office.
China held back a sigh and continued reorganizing his bookshelf. He asked, “Besides yourself?”
“They see you as a threat. You’re the–what was it?–territorial chauvinist with the power to take what you want. I’m just the basket case who can’t shoot a missile right. It’s different.”
China didn’t care to know how North Korea must have heard that. Things always seemed to get magically passed along the grapevine–the grapevine being Hong Kong and her penchant for gossip and spying.
“What about Japan, then? Surely she’s most hated.”
“People who hate Japan will bite the bullet because they hate you more. My poor sister, for example.” He pushed out the last words through grit teeth.
“It’s not a matter of hate,” China said. “It’s a matter of security. They will unite if it means protection from ‘Chinese assertiveness.’ The American puppets need to look out for each other, after all.”
North Korea visibly tensed. “I’m the only one who can call my sister that.”
“Right, right. Forgive me.”
“Agh–look what you’ve done, China. You’ve distracted me. I came here with a purpose.”
“You mean other than to bother me?”
“I told you that Southeast Asia was going to surround you and they are. Your ‘friends’ are scattered over Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.”
By friends, North Korea meant the 47 countries who decided to side with China regarding his opposition to the arbitration.
“As someone so very experienced in having no friends,” China said, “you should give me advice on how to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable loneliness.”
“China, do you enjoy hurting me?” North Korea asked, voice pained–though China doubted the sincerity of that pain.
“Of course not, but you make it very easy.”
“And you make antagonizing people around you very troublesome for yourself.”
“Ahh, so am I the one you learned it from?” Before North Korea could answer, China said, “I’m not worried about this. Territorial disputes are nothing new to these regions. It’s all simply more of the same. Anyway, I bought Cambodia off and I convinced Laos to change his mind. I could do the same to others.”
“China…” North Korea’s voice lowered in pitch and he gave his friend a deathly serious look. “We can be the most hated countries together.”
China finally released that suppressed sigh. He set the book in his hand down heavily, as if his arm had lost the will to try. “North Korea, why is it that whenever something like this happens, you always feel the need to remind me that being your ‘friend’ is in my best interests?”
“Because I crave constant validation. You know this.”
“I do.” China sulked back to his desk where he picked up his watch for a quick glance. It was almost soap opera time, which meant North Korea needed to GTFO.
The Korean scoffed. “Then why are you complaining? I… What’s that?”
China looked up to see the other completely enamored by the shiny toy. “Apple Watch,” he explained, hooking it around his wrist.
“Can I see it?”North Korea asked, moving in.
“I said ‘no.’ That’s all you reason you need.”
“I want one.”
“Sure. I’ll get you one for your birthday.”
“How about tomorrow?”
The cool people at iBall Round the World suggested I write something about ASEAN and the South China Sea dispute. While Vietnam is a member of ASEAN, this probably isn’t what they had in mind… but I’m a self-indulgent bastard who likes writing about North Korea way too much.
Why shouldn’t China have rights to its own sea? Well, for those unfamiliar with the issue, the South China Sea (SCS) isn’t really China’s. It borders many countries in South East Asia, and all of those countries claim they have their own territorial rights to it. For example, the Spratly Islands is located in the SCS but is occupied by Vietnam, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and others. Each of these countries claims the islands in their own way. You can probably imagine, now, how and why territorial disputes have been cropping up. China just happens to be the worst offender, according to about 17 countries (ASEAN + the G7).
Learning is fun:
- You can learn more about the SCS issue in this short, helpful video from SeekerDaily.
- HERE is an article about it, if you’d like a little bit in-depth reading to go along with the video.
- And here is something specifically about the Philippines v China case.
- Why doesn’t Vietnam in particular like China? Well, there’s been a few wars between them, for starters.
What are your thoughts? Is China acting wrongfully? Or are everyone’s claims legitimate?