Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Political issues deserve diplomatic solutions to South China Sea disputes


REFERRING to "Ripples and rumbles in South China Sea" (see below) by K. Thanabalasingam, I wish to share a few more points vital to the issue.

Conventional knowledge is that China's claim to the islands is arbitrary and violates International Law. But what is left out is an impartial overview of the whole situation based on historical considerations and facts on the ground.

Claims made by Vietnam and China are mostly centred on history. The rest of the claimants are late comers after the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

To avoid complicating the issue, knowledge of history has to be put in perspective. Since there are no "historical titles" to validate, then whatever historical facts, maps or records have to be considered as evidence. At least it sheds light to validate its case.

China has been consistent in her claims since 1279. Marker stones and light houses were on the islands but most were destroyed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Even early European records affirmed Chinese fishermen took annual sojourns on Spratly islands for part of the year.

One interesting event that happened in 1953 involved a Tomas Cloma, (director of the Maritime Institute of the Philippines) who threw away all the marker stones and made a unilateral claim on some Spratly islands and later in December 1974 was forced to sell to the government for 1 peso only, now known as Kalayaan.

All these facts are buried and often not revealed by the West.

The infamous Treaty of San Francisco, also known as Treaty of Peace with Japan, was drafted by US and Allied Powers to settle post-war issues affecting nations. Whatever the circumstances, China/Taiwan and Korea were not invited to attend the negotiations which deprived them of a fair chance and the right to present their cases. This also breached the Cairo/Potsdam declarations.

After the devastating long war, China got the raw end of the deal with unsettled lands and islands. Scholars and historians viewed this as a deliberate manoeuvre by Western Powers especially the US to create ambiguities to serve their covert interests.

I totally agree with Thanabalasingam on the recent statement by the US and Allies to pre-empt the tribunal's verdict in favour of the Philippines is an act of prima facie and undermines the whole proceedings of the court. That is why under Article 298 of UNCLOS, China declared that it does not accept compulsory arbitral procedures relating to sea boundary delimitation in 2006. Without guessing, one could easily decipher why the Philippine chose the arbitration court.

On the ground, it doesn't need a military expert to see what's happening in the region. It is a tussle between China and US with puppets (the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Vietnam) joining in the fray.

The US's sole interest is to maintain her status quo and dominance in the region. China, a rising power, is a direct competitor. When Obama announced the pivot to Asia in 2012, tensions started building up day by day with increasing deployment of military assets to frightening level.

More bases have been opened to the US in the Philippines, Japan, Australia, and some Asean nations, creating a "ring of fire" to contain China.

To harness support US raises up the heat and false alarms on China's threat to "Freedom of Navigation", etc. Do you expect China to remain docile and silent? Freedom of navigation was not an issue for decades. Deliberately intruding into sovereign territory with frigates, spy planes, etc are direct provocations.

Sad to see nations taking sides just to gain a little leverage to support their claims. As far as I can see, these islands are "bread crumbs" created to inflict tension and even wars among nations. Political issues deserve diplomatic solutions. Don't allow a Middle East or Ukraine crisis in Asia.

I trust my country will take the path of engagement and diplomacy.

By Ali Saw Kuala Lumpur The Sundaily

Ripples and rumbles in the South China Sea


AFTER the conclusion of the 27th Asean Summit and Related Summits chaired by Malaysia here in late November 2015, I felt optimistic the year 2016 might see a lessening of tensions in the South China Sea and perhaps even witness a Code of Conduct being signed between all the claimant states. I suppose this was hoping too much.

What we have seen instead is a rapid increase in tensions caused by China's actions in the South China Sea. Understandably, claimant Asean states are anxious and concerned over these latest developments.

Since the start of this year, China has conducted several test flights from its airfield in the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands Group. There was also news reports that China had moved an oil rig into disputed waters between China and Vietnam.

This brings to mind the January 1974 Chinese/Vietnamese clash over the Paracel Islands with Vietnam suffering heavy losses and being evicted from the Paracels.

More recently it has been reported and confirmed that China has installed long-range anti-aircraft missiles on Woody Island in the disputed Paracels chain.

This does not auger well for calm and confidence-building between the various Asean claimant states and the Republic of China.

In addition, the occasional reported intrusions of Chinese coastguard vessels into other nations' territorial waters is cause for concern.

The recent statement by the US and some European nations that China must abide by the decision to be made by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, hearing the Philippines request to invalidate China's claims, is rather premature in my humble opinion.

The US and other western nations' statement would have been better coming after the tribunal's verdict expected sometime near the middle of this year, if it turns out to be in Philippines favour. As it is, I feel the statement pre-empts the tribunal's verdict.

I had written an article on the South China Sea dispute and stated my personal views in June 2015. I am of the firm belief, based on International Law and UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), that China's claim to virtually the whole of the South China Sea is arbitrary and unprecedented.

No country has ever claimed such a large expanse of international maritime waters before. There is no provision anywhere that I am aware of for a historical claim, especially when such a claim has never been exercised or enforced until more recent times. China is not only a party to UNCLOS but it has also ratified it. Therefore, China is bound by UNCLOS.

A point to bear in mind is that there are laws and rules to what constitutes an island. Under UNCLOS no shoal or reef can be reclaimed and turned into an island.

A reclaimed land is artificial and not natural. Hence the question of territorial waters or other claims for the artificial island does not arise.

The Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by all members of Asean and the People's Republic of China on Nov 4, 2002 unfortunately has a number of setbacks. There is also a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). Although this is mainly to avoid any untoward sea incident between US Navy ships and Republic of China Navy (ROCN) ships. I feel that CUES should also be used more by Asean claimant states' naval ships and the ROCN ships.

Although I am disheartened by the latest developments in the South China Sea, I sincerely hope that these ripples and rumbles do not develop into a full blown hurricane or typhoon.

By Rear Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam was the third chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy and the first Malaysian to be appointed to the post.Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The U.S. should keep away from the South China Sea for regional peace


China is forced to deploy defensive facilities on islands in the South China Sea in response to early militarization action from other parties and to the U.S. close-up reconnaissance in this region, said a China's professor who specializes in international affairs.





Shen Dingli, a professor specializing in international affairs from Fudan University, wrote in a column that if the U.S. expects fewer disputes in the South China Sea, the country should not choose any side and not support those who infringe upon China's national interests. The U.S. should make those countries withdraw from the region.

Shen stated that the U.S. should reduce its close-up reconnaissance in the region so that China will not need to spare much time to deploy forces in the region.

According to Shen, statements of spokespersons from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense clearly show China's attitude towards this issue.

First of all, China deploys defensive facilities in order to cope with other countries' militarization in this area. Secondly, China benefits from freedom of navigation and China is willing to maintain this freedom within the international law in cooperation with ASEAN countries. Thirdly, China urges the U.S. to respect its legitimate interests when it comes to sovereign of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Shen also said that if the U.S. really cares about China's deployment of radars and missiles on relevant islands, it should reduce the close-up reconnaissance by its missile destroyers and strategic bombers in this area.  By Yuan Can (People's Daily Online)



US militarizing South China Sea




Compared with the progress Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State John Kerry seem to have achieved on sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, finding common ground to resolve their differences over the South China Sea has proved more difficult.

Just as Wang has stressed, the responsibility for non-militarization of the South China Sea is not China's alone. The United States should lend an attentive ear to China's stance.

On Tuesday, at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, said China's deployment of missiles and new radars on its islands and reefs in the South China Sea and its building of airstrips are "changing the operational landscape" in the waters.

The media in the US also hyped up China sending Annihilates-11 fighters to the Xisha Islands. These voices may be a prelude to Washington escalating the flexing of its muscles in the South China Sea.

Yet as a non-regional country, it is irresponsible of the US to intervene in the South China Sea in disregard of the possibility that has emerged that China and the other parties to the disputes in the waters will be able to stabilize the situation rather than let it spiral out of control.

If those in the region were allowed to settle the disputes themselves, the South China Sea would be free from concerns and troubles within the foreseeable future.

It is the US' direct interventions in the South China Sea that are exacerbating tensions and adding uncertainty.

The US' provocative signals have seriously increased Chinese people's sense of urgency to strengthen the country's military capabilities. When US military vessels and warplanes intruded into the 12-nautical-mile territorial seas around China's islands and reefs, Chinese people have reasons to believe their country should not remain indifferent even if its military might is still inferior to that of the US.

On issues concerning national sovereignty, the Chinese military will follow the will of its people.- Global Times

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