The rhetoric on the South China Sea in official Chinese media is becoming increasingly strident. But do those editorials really reflect Beijing’s policy?
An op-ed in the Chinese-language editions of People’s Daily and Global Times says there are no international waters in the South China Sea and that China should act with strength to repel US interference in the contested area.
In the article, which appeared last week, Pan Guoping (潘國平), a law professor at China’s Southwest University of Law and Politics, disputes the claim that the South China Sea comprises gonghai (公海), or “high seas,” as the term is translated in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
According to Article 86 of the convention, “high seas” refer to “all parts of the sea that are not included in the exclusive economic zone [EEZ], in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State, or in the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic State.”
By denying the presence of high seas in the South China Sea, China would deny freedom of navigation and use of airspace to other countries over the entire area, which Pan made clear.
“The United States is only a passer-by in the South [China] Sea ... As a country that has no sea coast in the region, does the United States have freedom of navigation and flight in the South [China] Sea? The answer is no! There is no international water in the South [China] Sea,” he wrote.
“China should act with stronger force ... to resolutely repel [US] interference, defend China’s nine-dotted line area that history has bestowed to us,” Pan wrote, referring to the large U-shaped swathe of territory claimed by China that encompasses most of the South China Sea.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with more on Chinese saber rattling, confirmation by Vietnam that China used force in 1974 over disputed islets, and the launch of a strategic planning department within the PLA.