Ka-boom! Uncle Sam's representatives call on China to explain what it is doing in the South China Sea.
The United States for the first time has explicitly rejected the U-shaped, nine-dash line that China uses to assert sovereignty over nearly the whole South China Sea, experts say, strengthening the position of rival claimants and setting the stage for what could be an international legal showdown with Beijing.The piece further observed:
Washington has always said that it takes no position on competing territorial claims in the South China Sea among China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei and opposes any use of force to resolve such issues.
But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel in effect ended the ambiguity last week when he testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, experts say.
Russel said that under international law, maritime claims in the South China Sea "must be derived from land features" and that any use of the nine-dash line by China to claim maritime rights not based on claimed land areas "would be inconsistent with international law."
Unlike other countries, Beijing's claim to up to about 90 percent of the South China Sea is not based on claims to particular islands or other features but on a historical map China officially submitted to the United Nations in 2009.This is a major shift in the declared US view. Sadly the US has not signed onto UNCLOS, meaning that its position is compromised. It is also compromised by its many years of silence on this issue. Still, it is nice to hear the US for once coming down on the side of right. Brookings has a longer review here.
The map contains a nine-dash line forming a U-shape down the east coast of Vietnam to just north of Indonesia and then continuing northwards up the west coast of the Philippines.
The nine-dash line has been considered by many experts as incompatible with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which rejects historically based claims.
In addition to the UNCLOS violation the US identifies, Philippines has previously contended that China is not an island nation and cannot make such claims. Manila has taken China to the international court, which China has ignored (also here for the facts on China's claims). If Manila wins, presumably this will impinge on the ROC claim, which is identical to the China claim because the ROC claims to rule China and everything that China rules, and also includes Mongolia in its "China."
South China Sea? Arunachal Pradesh? The Senkakus? Which war will we get? Probably not even Beijing knows.
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