Monthly Archives: February 2014

UNCLOS explained: Why China’s claims in South China Sea are invalid

MANILA, Philippines — With a little over a month before the Philippines submits its written arguments to the international Permanent Court of Arbitration, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza publicly spoke for the first time about the basis of the Philippines’ case against China’s claim to nearly the entire South China/West Philippine Sea. “You need to have land before you can have rights to the sea. It’s as simple as that.You cannot just have rights to the sea without owning land,” Jardeleza said in a forum in the University of the Philippines (UP) law center, citing the basic principle of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China, in 2009, submitted to the UN its “nine-dash line” claim that covers the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines’ western seaboard from the provinces of Ilocos Norte up to Palawan. China’s claim, however, has been repeatedly called invalid and not in accordance with UNCLOS, which the Philippines ratified in 1986 and China in 1996. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

‘China action in sea row unacceptable’

MANILA, Philippines – A former president and the longest serving member of the European Parliament called China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea “unacceptable,” and said no power should be allowed to dominate in the region. Hans-Gert Pöttering, chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and member of the European Parliament representing the Christian Democratic Union (CDU Germany), said maritime disputes in the South China Sea “should be solved on the basis of international law.” “I think as Europeans we have to be very aware of the situation in the South China Sea. No power shall be dominant in this region and the relations between the concerned countries have to be peaceful,” Pöttering told The STAR. Read more:

Long pacifist, Japan hones military skills

CAMP PENDLETON, California: In the early morning along a barren stretch of beach here last week, Japanese soldiers and US Marines practiced how to invade and retake an island captured by hostile forces. Memo to Beijing: Be forewarned. One Marine sergeant yelled for his soldiers to push into the right building, as his soldiers, guns drawn, climbed through the window of an empty house meant to simulate a seaside dwelling. The Marines had poured out of four amphibious assault vehicles as another group of smaller inflatable boats carrying soldiers of Japan’s Western Army Infantry Regiment landed in an accompanying beachhead assault. There were shouts in Japanese. There were shouts in Marine English. There was air support from Huey and Cobra helicopters hovering above. Then larger Navy hovercraft roared in, spitting up a spray of seawater before burping out Humvees and more Japanese troops, their faces blackened with camouflage paint. US military officials, viewing the cooperative action of the former Second World War enemies from a nearby hillside, insisted that the annual exercise, called Iron Fist, had nothing to do with last fall’s game of chicken between Tokyo and Beijing over islands that are largely piles of rocks in the East China Sea. But Lt Col John O’Neal, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said that this year the Japanese team came with “a new sense of purpose.” Read more:

‘Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick’: What is Malaysia Playing At?

For the past two years China has dispatched a flotilla of People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships to the farthest reaches of the South China Sea to assert Beijing’s claim to “indisputable sovereignty” over the waters and features lying within its nine-dashed line. Beijing’s ambitious claim covers an estimated eighty percent of the South China Sea. On each occasion PLAN warships sailed to James Shoal, or Beting Serupai in Malay, eighty kilometers off the coast of East Malaysia. According to Bill Hayton, who is completing a book on the South China Sea, China’s claim is based on a double historical error. The first error occurred in 1933 when the Republic of China set up an official Inspection Committee for Land and Water Maps to catalogue every part of Chinese territory on land and sea. The Inspection Committee lacked the means to carry out any maritime surveys and so it plagiarized from a contemporary British Admiralty map and attempted to translate the names of maritime features into Chinese.  James Shoal was erroneously translated as Zengmu Tan or sandbank. This error had the effect of transforming a shoal, which lies under the water, into a land feature above the water. Read more:

Why China Isn’t Interested in a South China Sea Code of Conduct

According to Reuters, ASEAN officials say that they will meet with Chinese representatives in Singapore beginning March 18 to try and make some progress on talks to establish a “code of conduct” in the South China Sea. China agreed to discuss a South China Sea code of conduct at the ASEAN forum last July, a move that was widely applauded in the region. The first round of meetings was held in Beijing in September, and concluded with an agreement to seek “gradual progress and consensus through consultations.” Unfortunately, when it comes to ASEAN, China, and the South China Sea, progress has been slow and consensus almost nonexistent.  Negotiations over a code of conduct are complicated by the simple fact that not every ASEAN member state is involved in the territorial disputes. Of the 10 ASEAN members, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei claim territory that also falls within China’s “nine-dash line.” Even these four states are not on the same page, with Vietnam and the Philippines vocally protesting China’s ‘aggression’ and Malaysia and Brunei keeping a much lower profile. Read more:

As China Feuds With Japan, Nanjing Takes Center Stage

With China-Japan tensions showing no signs of abating, the Chinese government is continuing its plan to gain the moral high ground. China’s strategy centers around reminding the world about Japanese atrocities during its invasion of China. As such, Nanjing has become a focal point in China’s battle for popular international opinion. Nanjing (romanized as Nanking at the time) was the capital of the Republic of China government during World War II. As such, it was a target for the invading Japanese army. Nanjing was captured on December 13, 1937, and for the next six weeks was the site of murder, rape, and looting by Japanese soldiers — at least, according to China. Some in Japan, most recently NHK Governor Naoki Hyakuta, have denied that the Nanjing Massacre happened. Disagreement over the scale of the atrocities, or whether they occurred at all, is a potent symbol for broader arguments between China and Japan over the legacy of World War II.  Accordingly, drawing attention to the Nanjing Massacre has become shorthand for China’s efforts to discredit Japan on the international stage.   Read more:

In America, China is Public Enemy #1

For the first time ever, more Americans view China as America’s greatest enemy than any other country in the world, according to a new public opinion poll. According to a recent poll by Gallup, 20 percent of Americans view China as the country’s greatest enemy, slightly more than the 16 percent of Americans surveyed who said the same thing about Iran and North Korea. This is the first time that China has topped the list since Gallup began asking the question in 2001, as well as the first time Iran hasn’t topped the list since 2006. It should be emphasized that the poll numbers suggest that China became public enemy number one in the U.S. less because of growing hostility toward it than because of reduced anxiety over Iran. Most likely because of the election of Hassan Rouhani as president and the interim nuclear agreement, American views on Iran have improved markedly over the last two years. Indeed, whereas 32 percent of Americans felt that Iran was their country’s greatest enemy in 2012, half that number, 16 percent, said the same thing this year. By contrast, the number of Americans citing China as America’s greatest enemy has remained largely stagnant since 2012. Other countries, most notably North Korea and Russia, have seen significant increases in the number of Americans citing them as their country’s greatest enemy since 2012. Another recent Gallup poll has found that the majority of Americans have a generally unfavorable opinion of China. Specifically, 53 percent of Americans have a very or mostly unfavorable view of China, compared to 43 percent who have a very or mostly favorable view of the Asian giant. These numbers are fairly consistent with the views expressed every year since the Tiananmen Square crackdown, after which America’s views of China plummeted. In the ten years between the normalization of bilateral ties and the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Americans had a much more favorable view of China, according to Gallup’s polling.   Read more:

China’s rebuke of Julie Bishop ‘rudest’ conduct seen in 30 years, says senior foreign affairs official

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in December last year. The Chinese minister critised Ms Bishop over her handling of China’s air defence in the East China Sea. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in December last year. The Chinese minister critised Ms Bishop over her handling of China’s air defence in the East China Sea. Photo: Ed Jones/Getty Images A senior Australian foreign affairs official has branded Beijing’s public rebuke of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop over a diplomatic rift late last year as the rudest thing he’s seen in 30 years as a diplomat. The unusually frank criticism by North Asia Division first assistant secretary Peter Rowe came during a Senate estimates hearing in which Labor was probing the diplomatic fallout from the public spat late last year. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in early December delivered a stinging criticism of Australia in front of television cameras during a face-to-face meeting with Ms Bishop. The dispute stemmed from Australia’s firm condemnation of China’s establishment of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea – widely seen as a provocation in its territorial dispute with Japan over a group of islands. Advertisement Mr Wang said Australia’s position had ”jeopardised bilateral mutual trust and affected the sound growth of bilateral relations”. Read more:

US position hardens on China’s nine-dashed line

In January 2013, senior US Navy intelligence officer Captain James Fanell described China’s maritime strategy and ambitions as ‘hegemonic’ and aggressive, and said China ‘bullies adversaries’. This unusually blunt assessment made news around the world. Sam Roggeveen, who broke the story for The Interpreter, described Fanell’s comments as ‘bracing.’ While it did not receive quite as much media attention, Captain Fanell gave another presentation at the same conference this year, beginning with an admission that his previous comments were ‘provocative, even controversial in January 2013.’ Rather than concede the point, however, Fanell goes on to state that in light of recent developments, the previous year’s assessment ‘now seems obvious, even conservative…It sounded so aggressive then to simply state the facts. What a difference a year makes.’ There may be disagreement on whether to categorise Fanell’s position as ‘conservative’, particularly amid reports that the Pentagon has distanced itself from other recent comments he has made.   Read more:

How History Can Save China-Japan Relations

Unsettled war memories are once again stirring up tension in Northeast Asia. According to a recent report, Beijing would like to make World War II reconciliation a centerpiece of Xi Jinping’s visit to Germany next month. According to the article, diplomatic sources say that the Chinese government wants to highlight German contrition over its wartime past to shame Japan for what it considers to be insufficient postwar atonement.  This report comes just after Tokyo was forced to distance itself from World War II-related comments made by individuals at public broadcaster NHK. Can any good come of engaging sensitive war memories? Yes, according to a recent proposal put forth by scholars from several countries. In a new column in the Asahi Shimbun, University of Tokyo Professor Kiichi Fujiwara details an innovative plan to help states begin to move towards historical reconciliation. The proposal, which originated at a conference I participated in at the University of Tokyo earlier this month, urges that Japan and China use the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II to acknowledge the wartime atrocities that continue to inform these states’ national narratives so many decades later. The proposal is an important one, and should be seriously considered by officials throughout the region and in the United States. One particular feature of the plan—reciprocity — distinguishes it from other efforts to mend historical fences, and may make this proposal domestically viable for the participants involved.   Read more: