Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Manila are boosting their ties to counter Beijing's hegemony in the South China Sea, reacting to the Chinese Navy's unremitting violations of the rights of Vietnamese, Filipino and Malaysian commercial ships or fishing vessels in disputed waters.
The United States back the claims of South Asian nations. For Washington, China's "cow tongue line" is both illegal and irrational.
The Philippines continues its lawsuit against China after the international court accepted its case, asking Manila to present legal arguments and evidence on 3 March 2014.
Vietnam and the Philippines have been increasingly alarmed by Beijing's "imperialism" in the South and East China Seas, largely claimed by China (almost 80 per cent of the area), which include islands also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.
In recent months, China has tried to use political, economic and diplomatic means to interfere with foreign fishing or boats in disputed waters.
Such a show of force is unacceptable to many of the region's nations, who have begun to band together to counter the claims of the Asian superpower.
China has deployed paramilitary forces to harass and chase Filipino, Vietnamese or Malaysian boats and small vessels.
On 27 January, Chinese ships used water cannons against Filipino fishing vessels. On 1 March, a Vietnamese trawler was attacked by Chinese paramilitary forces, its fish catch seized and the crew mistreated. The owner of the vessel said that he was beaten and tasered.
On 4 March, the Filipino daily Inquirer reported that Vietnam is backing the Philippines in its case against China before the international court.
China's hegemonic designs have also started to worry Malaysia after Chinese vessels crossed into the waters of James Island, just 80 kilometres off the coast of Malaysia.
Such incidents have prompted Kuala Lumpur to seek cooperation with the Philippines and Vietnam to defend their common interests and uphold international law.
In Vietnam, activists and members of civil society hope that the "Chinese regime" will rein in its foreign expansionist designs, whilst allowing more (political and religious) rights at home, removing the danger of force and violence once and for all.
In the South China Sea Beijing claims sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, Brunei, Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Beijing's hegemony is strategic in nature with regards to trade and oil and natural gas seabed development, in a region crossed by two thirds of the world's maritime trade.
The resource-rich islands are almost uninhabited, but are thought to hold large reserves of oil and natural gas, and other raw materials.
India, Australia and the United States are also involved in the dispute to varying degrees, with cross-cutting interests and alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, one of the world's main geopolitical hotspots.