Wednesday, June 27, 2012

China's bellicoast ways

The agitation for China's annexation of all waters to or past the Mid-Pacific Islands, and what are equally if more important, lands above and below the waters, continues as the stories below reveal (click links to stories for complete details). Guambat wonders how long the fuse is.

Beijing seeks dominance of South China Sea with new city (Russia)
A new city has emerged on the map of China. China's State Council has approved the foundation of the district level city of Sangsha. Governance over the islands of Xisha, Zhong Sha and Nan Sha – as well as the adjacent waters – will be concentrated in this administrative center.

Sangsha therefore becomes the southernmost city in China and, taking into account the area of the surrounding waters, it is the largest municipality too. At the same time, from the administrative division point of view, the appearance of a new city on the map looks like a curious incident. Usually a district level city in China has a population of no less than 200,000 people, while the population of the three islands together is not more than 500. However, from a geopolitical standpoint, it is a very clever move on the part of Beijing.

The city government of Sangsha will be located on Yongxing Island. Yongxing covers an area of about two square kilometers and is considered to be the outpost of Chinese interests in this natural resource-rich area of the South China Sea. In addition a subdivision of the Chinese People's Liberation Army is deployed here, Boeing-737 class airplanes can land on the local runway, and 5000-ton ships can harbor at its port.

The revival of the project is once again connected with the position of Hanoi. Most observers consider that the foundation of the city of Sangsha was a response to the adoption of the Maritime Law of Vietnam. According to this document, Vietnam has sovereignty over the islands of Nan Sha, Xisha, and the adjacent waters. Beijing proclaimed this step illegal, because it violated the “indisputable sovereignty” of China. In its turn, Hanoi believes that its position is supported by historical documents which prove that, already in the 16th century, Vietnam was exercising effective control over the disputed territories.

Yakov Berger, analyst from the Institute of Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that today we are more or less dealing with propaganda gestures and a war of words – but the parties to the conflict are at the same time steadily strengthening their military muscles, which can be fraught with a potential danger to peace and stability in the South China Sea region.

This step is evidently connected to the aggravation of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Chinese scholar dismisses U-shaped East Sea line as baseless (Vietnam)
A Chinese scholar has objected to a U-shaped line that China has put in its maps to bring most of the East Sea under its sovereignty, including Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, calling it imaginary and having no legal foundation.

The line, also known as the “nine-dotted line,” “nine-dash line,” or “cow tongue line,” started to appear last year in American and Italian journals that cited Chinese articles with maps portraying more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, known in Vietnam as the East Sea, as belonging to China.

But Li Ling Hua, a researcher for more than 20 years at China's National Oceanographic Data and Information Center, and the author of more than 90 reports on maritime issues and maritime laws, said at a conference June 14 that “The nine-dash line on the Nan Hai (or the East Sea) is unreal," according to a Tien Phong report Sunday.

"The line was established by our predecessors with no longitudes or latitudes, and it was not based on any laws or regulations.

“It was merely a unilateral announcement by China in 1947.”

He said the Chinese government has never officially announced the U-shaped line, but many textbooks and newspapers consider it the official sea border, making most Chinese believe it.

The U-shaped line (formed with pink dashes) was established by China to gather most of the East Sea into China’s territory. Bordering the line to the left is Vietnam, to the right is the Philippines and below it is Malaysia and Brunei.
The Chinese government needs to clarify the legitimacy of the line, “or there will be clashes in the future” when Chinese people rely on the line to oppose any country they think is violating it.

Ridiculous antic (China)
On Thursday the Vietnamese National Assembly adopted a domestic law of the sea to include China's Xisha and Nansha islands in the South China Sea within Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction. In response, Chinese authorities have expressed firm opposition and demanded that Vietnam correct its erroneous maritime law immediately.

Nothing is more absurd than the attempt to take what rightfully belongs to others as one's own. Hanoi's wishful thinking in claiming sovereignty over Xisha and Nansha islands with its domestic law amounts to robbery. It is an open infringement of China's territorial integrity and a violation of international law.

Regrettably, in a statement posted on the Vietnamese foreign ministry's website late on Thursday, the ministry's spokesman said, "Vietnam resolutely rejects the absurd accusations by the Chinese side."

Having been through multiple wars with multiple neighbors, Vietnam ought to know what happens when countries disregard others' territorial integrity. But the ridiculous antic on Thursday shows it has not. The consequences may prove dangerous and costly.

Talk of the Day -- Stakeholders step up moves in South China Sea (Taiwan)
The Cultural Affairs Office in China's Hainan Province has designated the areas around four islets in the Shisha Islands in the disputed South China Sea as special zones for the preservation of cultural relics, according to media reports.

The announcement was made after after archaeologists discovered underwater relics near the the four Shisha islets -- Beijiao, Huaguang Jiao, Yuzhuo Jiao and Yongle Jiao -- during a routine maritime inspection carried out by the Hainan provincial government between April and May, the reports said.

The Hainan cultural bureau will collaborate with China's public security authorities to establish an advanced three-dimensional monitoring system to better protect the cultural relics in the area, also known as the Paracel Islands or Xisha Islands in China, the reports said.

Meanwhile, Sansha City in Hainan has been assigned to administer islets, shoals, reefs of Xisha, Zhongsha (Macclesfield Islands) and Nansha (Spratly Islands) and surrounding waters in the South China Sea, the reports said.

The area was part of the "ancient marine silk road" and a wealth of historical and cultural relics are believed to lie beneath the waters.

China will not accept provocative action in South China Sea: Official (India)
Even as India has pulled out of an offshore oil block in the South China Sea following protests by China, Beijing has reiterated its stand that the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters fall within its "core interests" and it will not accept any "provocative action" in the sea off the China coast.

Jia Xiudong, Senior Fellow in Residence at the state-run China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), Department of International Strategic Studies, said while China does not claim the whole South China Sea, its official position is that it has "undisputable sovereignty over the islands and waters around it".

Sounding a tough note, Jia said that China's "restraint" should not be taken as "a sign of weakness and acceptance of encroachment of sovereignty".

"China will react now, or in future, no matter what others think of China, in regard to sovereignty issues," he asserted while talking to a group of visiting Indian journalists.

Last July, the Indian Navy's amphibious warfare ship INS Airavat, which was on a friendly visit to Vietnam in the South China Sea, was contacted by the Chinese Navy on radio and told that it was entering Chinese waters. The vessel proceeded on its journey as scheduled. The Indian government later in a statement said that "India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law".

In May, following objections by China, India's ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of state-owned ONGC, pulled out of an offshore oil block in Vietnam in the South China Sea.

ONGC Videsh had signed a deal with PetroVietnam in September 2011 for developing long-term cooperation in the oil sector and had accepted Vietnam's offer of exploration in certain blocks in the South China Sea. China had protested against the move of countries "engaging in oil and gas exploration and development activities in waters under China's jurisdiction".

After China voiced its objection, ONGC Videsh pulled out of the oil block exploration. Last week, India's ONGC and China National Petroleum Corp. inked a deal to jointly explore assets in third countries. The two are already working in Myanmar, Syria and Sudan.

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