For order in South China Sea

By Jin Yongmin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, June 22, 2011
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The root of the ongoing South China Sea dispute is the unilateral actions of Vietnam and the Philippines. The two countries have intensified their efforts to exploit resources and occupy parts of Nansha and Xisha islands, and dismantled plaques China had set up on the Nansha Islands to signify its maritime boundary.

The United States, which is not part of the region, has added fuel to fire by demanding freedom of navigation and holding joint military exercises in the seas off China.

Therefore, resolving the South China Sea issue, especially the jurisdiction of the Nansha Islands, with reason and guaranteeing navigation security and freedom are a challenge that the international community faces. To maintain order and ensure that the situation does not deteriorate further, all parties to the dispute should abide by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Since the shift in global economic activities to the Asia-Pacific region has increased Asian countries' need for energy and resources, some players in the region are trying all means to exploit sea resources and seize the Nansha Islands.

Navigation safety has become a big concern in the South China Sea, which is an important waterway for merchant vessels. The gross tonnage in the waters around the Nansha Islands is half of the world total, and two and three times that of the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal. It is, therefore, in the interest of all countries, including the US, to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, especially in the waters around the Nansha Islands.

But the developments in recent times, thanks to some countries' actions, have been to the contrary. The US consolidated its alliance with South Korea and Japan during the Cheonan incident in March last year and after a Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels near Diaoyu Islands in September. The US has strengthened its strategic arrangements in East Asia, and is more interested in regaining its strategic position in the Asia Pacific than in resolving the issue.

For demarcation of outer continental shelves of countries, the South China Sea dispute has to be resolved immediately. The deadline for countries to submit their outer continental shelf delimitation applications to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), formed by the UN for the purpose, was May 13, 2009. Vietnam submitted its application on the South China Sea on May 7, 2009, and Malaysia and Vietnam made a joint submission on their claim on the southern part of the South China Sea a day earlier.

Both the submissions violate sovereignty rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea. The CLCS would consider a submission on the premise that there is no controversy or dispute between or among countries on the issue - and in case of any, it will not examine the controversial or disputed parts.

Some Asian countries have taken unilateral action because there are loopholes in international and regional regulations. Though China and Southeast Asian countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea on Nov 4, 2002, the declaration is one of principle and lacks a specific code of conduct, especially on the measures to be taken against countries that violate it.

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