The high-profile interventions by the US in the disputes between China and some of its neighbors over some islands or reefs and maritime entitlements in recent years, have seen the US frequent making use of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It seems that according to the US, China has become a violator of UNCLOS.
The fact is that the disputes between China and some of its neighbors over some islands or reefs fall within the scope of territorial disputes, which are not subject to UNCLOS' regulation and adjustment.
Moreover, China, as a state party to UNCLOS, made a declaration in 2006, which excluded disputes on maritime delimitation and historic title or rights from the compulsory dispute settlement procedures, in accordance with relevant UNCLOS provisions concerning optional exceptions.
The US, which keeps on emphasizing the rule of international law, should be well aware of this background. However, the US has repeatedly distorted UNCLOS to negate China's lawful maritime claims and rights. Anyone with common sense can understand what the US acts mean.
While the US behaves like a state party to UNCLOS and argumentatively invokes UNCLOS to criticize China, it forgets that it has not ratified UNCLOS itself. As the world's top sea power and significant coastal state, the US, under the excuse that UNCLOS has become part of the customary international law, has enjoyed all the rights given by UNCLOS while choosing to evade the related duties at the same time. This clearly demonstrates the selective and utilitarian attitude of the US toward UNCLOS.
The US misuse of UNCLOS is also well reflected in its self-granted impunity concerning its maritime military maneuvers. The US possesses ultra-strong naval power and the capacity to control all the world's strategically important maritime locations, and its freedom of navigation and maritime entitlements have never been threatened.
With the development of modern naval weaponry particularly the enhancement of the electronic telecommunication and reconnaissance capabilities, the US has for a long time expanded its maritime and aerial reconnaissance and deterrence activities into other countries' exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and the airspace above them, causing disquietude among many developing coastal states, and making the utilization of EEZs for military purposes a highly controversial issue globally.
Washington has made a series of US-style interpretations on UNCLOS' EEZ regime, such as confusing the EEZ with the high seas in its excessive expansion of its naval ships' rights to free movement, misinterpreting the provisions concerning the peaceful use of oceans for an improper assertion that all non-invasive military activities are lawful, arguing that its military ships' close-reconnaissance of other countries' EEZs are hydrological surveys or intelligence collection, and so on.
The self-granted impunity mentioned above fully reveals the unscrupulous US playing with and trampling on UNCLOS.
And from the perspective of timing, when the US started to put into practice its "pivot to Asia" strategy, it simultaneously began to make an issue of UNCLOS under the circumstances of its not-yet accession into it, and to hype up the East China Sea and South China Sea issues, so as to pave the way for its military "rebalance."
Rather than adopting a "double standard" in using UNCLOS to realize its selfish interests and "rebalance" other countries, the US, the self-proclaimed defender of regional maritime order and mediator of relevant disputes, should consciously abide by the maritime norms in accordance with the spirit of UNCLOS.
It should show respect to the joint efforts by China and its neighbors in resolving relevant disputes through consultations and negotiations, and engage more in activities which are conductive to regional peace and stability, maritime cooperation and development.
- By Shen Yamei Source: Global Times Published: 2014-4-29 21:43:01
The author is an associate research fellow with Center for Maritime Security and Cooperation Studies, China Institute of International Studies. email@example.com
US shows its true colors
Just as many have observed, united States President Barack Obama's Asia visit is essentially about Washington's and its allies' unease about a rising China.
From Tokyo to Manila, Obama has tried to pick his words so as not to antagonize Beijing. But from the US-Japan joint statement to the new US-Philippines defense agreement, it is increasingly obvious that Washington is taking Beijing as an opponent. With Obama reassuring the US' allies of protection in any conflict with China, it is now clear that Washington is no longer bothering to conceal its attempt to contain China's influence in the region. It is even less convincing to say the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific is not targeted against China.
Obama's rhetoric about peace and international law sounds hollow because it contradicts what Washington and himself have been up to. The US-Japan statement, for instance, is a dangerous license for the increasingly rightist Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to provoke more trouble. Its shameless disregard of historical facts and endorsement of Abe's rightist inclinations will only cause further instability.
For a considerably long period, Chinese have cherished the naive thought that Washington will rein in its unruly allies when they go too far.
Obama's current trip should be a wake-up call that this is just wishful thinking. His sweet promises of a new type of major-country relationship should not blind us to the grim geopolitical reality: Ganging up with its troublemaking allies, the US is presenting itself as a security threat to China.
The foremost threat is not the disputes that estrange China from its neighbors such as Japan and the Philippines. It is rather the threatening image of China that is being projected and marketed by these malicious neighbors and their backstage supporter.
Washington's biased portrayal of China and its legitimate territorial claims is conducive to the US' pivot and stronger bonds with its allies. But if the US wants to benefit from the thriving Asia-Pacific, it should promote good-neighborliness.
The further prosperity of the region calls for closer intra-regional connectivity, to which the current tensions are a threat. Washington should try to ease those tensions, instead of fanning them.
Most important of all, Washington must come to terms with the reality that China will continue to grow, though it will not follow the US' hegemonic path.
Washington's best bet lies in collaborating with, not standing against, Beijing before it is too late. - China Daily
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