Japan has joined a growing list of countries that are challenging China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.
On Tuesday, Japan presented a one-page diplomatic note to the United Nations rejecting China’s baseline claims and denouncing its efforts to limit the freedom of navigation and overflight.
Japan’s note is the latest in series of recent criticisms of China’s position, joining submissions to the U.N. from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States.
This backlash suggests that China’s excessive claims and its assertive behavior are setting off alarm bells in in a growing number of capitals—both in Southeast Asia and beyond.
“By joining the United States and several European and Asian nations in formally protesting China’s claims, Japan is joining a diplomatic (and maybe operational) effort to reject specific elements of China’s South China Sea claims,” said Isaac Kardon, an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval War College.
In its submission, Japan explicitly rejects China’s claim that the “drawing of territorial sea baselines by China on relevant islands and reefs in the South China Sea conforms to UNCLOS and general international law.”
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is an international treaty that covers maritime jurisdictions, the use of sea resources, and the freedom of navigation and overflight. Baselines are imaginary lines on a map connecting the outermost points of the features of an archipelago and are meant to circumscribe the territory that belongs to it.