Defending China's legitimate rights

By Shen Dingli
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 3, 2014
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China is facing challenges to its maritime rights. The Philippines has filed a lawsuit at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea over sovereignty and economic rights in the South China Sea.

In 1999, the Philippines navy intentionally grounded its tank landing ship No. 57 at Ren'ai Jiao (Second Thomas Shoal).

Over centuries, the Chinese discovered many rocks and land formations in the South China Sea and thereby helped advance the safety and security of international shipping and navigation. China and other countries share freedom of navigation and other rights in this important area of international waters.

But in terms of sovereignty over these sea-based territories, successive Chinese governments, over an extended period, have claimed sovereignty over various islands, islets and shoals. As long ago as the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), the Chinese government brought Hainan Island under its jurisdiction. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), Chinese control extended to the Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands). During the Yuan Dynasty, eight centuries ago, Beijing sent officials to survey Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal). When the Chinese government claimed all such rock features in the entire South China Sea in 1947, it encountered virtually no counterclaims.

What is more, until 1997, the Philippines government had made it clear in all its past constitutions that its westernmost territory ended at Luzon Island. Scarborough Shoal, 130 nautical miles west of Luzon, was completely outside its constitutionally-defined territory, and was, therefore, never covered by its defense treaties, either with Spain or the United States.

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