Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Chinese Island Claims Ruled Invalid

The UNCLOS (United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea) Tribunal has rendered its decision on the dispute between Philippines and China over regions of the South China Sea.  To the surprise of, well, no one, the Tribunal ruled that,


  • It did have jurisdiction over the case via Article 288 of the Convention

  • China’s claim of historical rights with in the Nine Dash line (first island chain, essentially) are unfounded

  • The Spratley Islands, singly or as a group, were incapable of generating either 12 mile territorial limits or 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ)

  • Certain portions of the Sea were within Philippines EEZ

  • That China violated Philippines sovereign rights by interfering with Philippines fishing rights, unlawfully constructing artificial islands, and unlawfully allowing Chinese fishing

  • China had caused severe damage to reefs and habitats in violation of the UNCLOS agreement

The press release announcing the decision is listed below (1)

China is a signatory to the UNCLOS agreement having signed and ratified both the Convention and Agreement in 1982 and 1994, respectively.  China, by their own agreement, is bound by the Convention.

The decision has been rendered and all that is left is for China to respect and abide by the decision.  This is the moment that China declares, for all the world to see, whether it is a peaceful and law abiding member of the world community or whether it is a rogue nation, flouting international laws and norms and dishonoring its own signed commitments.

I have no doubt which path China will choose and, unless China greatly surprises me, this is also the moment in time when the Chinese apologists lose all credibility.


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27 comments:

  1. To paraphrase a potentially apocryphal statement, China will say:

    "The UNCLOS tribunal has made its decision, now let them enforce it."

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  2. The story about this in the NY Times "In 1986, some noted, the United States ignored a ruling from the International Court of Justice that declared its mining of the harbors of Nicaragua to be illegal." My point is that big powerful countries ignore these international tribunals when it suits them, so law abiding is not just when other countries do the wrong thing , as is the case for the Chinese.

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  3. CNO,

    IMO, Chinese claim was always about shoe-horning a 'legitimate' cover for its bastion defense (for its sub fleet), which is indispensable in the face of US' ASW prep.work.

    I think China should just come out and tells everybody: China needs a nuke-deterrence-sub-fleet, just as US, Russia, UK, France do, and SCS needs to be a 'military Chinese lake' for that to happen (and China can accomplish that without war/conflict, unless someone wars on China). As for other issues, such as resource sharing, fishing right, and econ. zone disputes, FON...etc. all of them are negotiable, and China will be flexible and accommodating.

    Tim

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    Replies
    1. What 'military lake' do Britain and France have? Their nuclear subs bases open onto North Atlantic. US and Russia have opposite sides of North Pacific, plus a second base on Atlantic and arctic oceans respectively.
      Hainan Is has direct access to ocean between Luzon and Taiwan, and SCS 'control' still leaves you with a barrier islands from Phillipines through Indonesia.

      Delete
    2. 1. Your aforementioned nations, due to their alliance/technology/strategic calculation/geographic location, do not need a protected water to establish their sub deterrence force. China does, due to its own particular set of circumstance. I fault China for dragging in non-players and violate their sense of sovereignty and livelihood, but I don't fault China for establishing their own sub nuke insurance (after all, USN sub's nukes have Beijing's address on them.)

      2. 'Military Chinese lake' shouldn't be a no-go zone for other militaries. China should make SCS a transparent zone to China regarding other militaries. Just as the global ocean is transparent, yet dominated by, USN, even though other militaries can FON as they please.

      3. Breakout into the wide Pacific makes no strategic sense to China. After all, unlike USSR/Russia, China thrives in a globalized commerce especially with the US. Why overtly and aggressively threatens the American security, even if China can- say 10-20 years from now.

      Tim

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    3. "... other issues, such as resource sharing, fishing right, and econ. zone disputes, FON...etc. all of them are negotiable ..."

      Aside from some disputed islands, the various resource rights are not negotiable and are, in fact, pretty solidly delineated, the more so now that the UNCLOS Tribunal has ruled.

      Delete
    4. "SCS needs to be a 'military Chinese lake'"

      Where do you get that? What lake does the US have. What gives any nation some kind of inherent right to a lake? You're making stuff up, here. Every nation gets their 12 mile territorial limit and that's all.

      Delete
    5. CNO,

      I know your this post here is more about geopolitical/Alpha/moral high ground/lawfare..etc than a discussion on efficacy of Chinese nuke deterrence strategies. And certainly China lost major face in the courts of law and public opinion.

      However, my point about 'Chinese Lake' is an amoral take on one facet of its nuke deterrence strategy (that is, a forward basing screens to compensate for its lack of sub technologies & geographic constraints.) Everybody here, except me, are ex-navy if not ex-military, and on the topic of 'hardware, tactics, strategies, wherewithal', everybody knows flag does not matter. Even me, one without mil. background, knows about the incidents and 'whys' of 'EP-3, Impeccable.etc' incidents. The whole thing can be distill down to 'China wants its sub nuke deterrence, and the US wants to make that as difficult as possible'. That's the boil down gist of it.

      Tim

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    6. You seemed to be suggesting that China had some sort of "right" to establish an exclusive use "lake" and there is neither law nor precedent for that. China may want lots of things but that doesn't make them legal or "rightful".

      There is no requirement to be ex-military on this blog. The only requirement is data and logic!

      Delete
    7. "That's the boil down gist of it."

      I think you're vastly oversimplifying and, possibly, missing the mark on what China's long and short term goals are. You might want to read the two part "War With China" posts in the May 2013 archives for a somewhat deeper examination of China's objectives and actions.

      Delete
    8. CNO,

      I never said 'by right'. I said 'by necessity'. And I've listed the condition how this 'Chinese lake' can be done, a scaled down version of USN's global approach: dominance without infringing the everyday sovereignty of other nations.

      OK, let's do it by logic. Remember: 'data and logic' is an amoral consideration.

      Take off your USN uniform, and think like a PLAN guy. Do you think PLAN's strategy in SCS has any merit from its sub-nuke-deterrence strategy pov, given its current technological level & geographic constraints?

      Lastly, I read your posts; but you never explained why EP-3 is 100km offshore of Hainan, or why Impeccable mapping Hainan's seafloor. Why is the USN 'prepping the field' 100km of China's coast? Again, if you're in PLAN uniform, how would you interpret such acts?

      BTW, I notice you have a habit of avoiding answering my questions.

      Tim

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    9. (pardon me, reword my last sentence. I would like you to address my questions)

      Delete
    10. "I would like you to address my questions"

      For your general edification, I respond to comments/questions that move the discussion forward or to questions in which it is obvious that the commenter is trying to learn something.

      For example, your questions about why the US EP-3 and ships are in the area of Hainan are not worth my time to answer. You know why they're there as well as I do. Further, the questions have no relevance in the context of the comment because the ships and aircraft are in international airspace and international waters. You're trying to bait an argument and argument for its own sake is not what this blog is about. I'm all for debate and I recognize that there is a fine line between debate and argument but debate at least implies the willingness to exchange ideas and learn from it.

      So, there you have it. If you want responses, move the discussion forward!

      Delete
    11. CNO,

      OK, let me skip all the meandering side branches and cut to the chase.

      Do (or will) you accept China as a non-liberal governed power, that some day may well likely be an eye-level power (or economic wise, might even surpass)of the US, in a live-and-let-live manner, and reached a new equilibrium between the bigs without reaching for the war hammer proactively?

      Or, under what circumstance will you accept an non-liberal equal power, as long as China does '.....' (please fill in the blank)?

      Tim

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    12. This is not a geopolitical blog. I address geopolitics only to the extent that they directly impact naval matters. China has demonstrated that they are a rogue nation. That's the end of that discussion. There are geopolitical blogs that might be more to your liking.

      If you have naval matters to discuss, feel free to comment.

      Delete
    13. Tim,

      China does not need "access" to have a credible nuclear deterrent.

      The SSBN is without question the most survivable strategic force, but it is not the only one.

      GAB

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    14. GAB,

      China does not have long range stealth bomber. Its road mobile ICBM is limited in quantity. One other option is to stock nuke in space as LEO-SAT; but I don't think anybody wants to go there yet. Hence, China is already one&half leg short of the traditional 3-legged nuke deterrent policy. With a minimally credible SLBM, China at least has 2-legs out of 3.

      And no, Chinese missile subs are questionable survivable even with bastion defense; none without.

      Tim

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    15. Tim,

      You are arguing the issue from a *western* point of view; not a PRC point of view, and limiting solutions instead of working through them.

      There are alternatives to building a credible nuclear deterrence force than SSBNs.

      There are even ways for China to effectively employ SSBNs without dominance of the first island chain.

      GAB

      Delete
  4. Predictable response, they are enforcing "air defence" identification zones.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-36781138

    Beno

    ReplyDelete
  5. There is only one way to deal with a bully!

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    Replies
    1. Chinas military is largly configured for costal and terratorial defence.

      We will now see them accelerate the militarization of these islands in this style and dig in.

      The only thing this ruling gets us is backing to prevent the next round of islands.

      I suggest this time we are ready.

      It should be easy enough to prevent further construction without moving to a war footing.

      But that wont help up in approx 300nm range of these islands. Their air cover will be too good.

      Delete
  6. Note that Taiwan didn't accept the ruling either. And since the USA doesn't recognize UNCLOS, this issue is dead. This from "Breaking Defense":

    WASHINGTON: Leading legislators from both parties welcomed today’s UN tribunal ruling against Chinese claims in the South China Sea. But while Republicans focused on China’s misdeeds, Democrats consistently brought up an American omission: The United States has never ratified the very treaty empowering the tribunal to stand up China, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    UNCLOS has been in contention since the Reagan era. Republicans rejected it primarily for imposing UN bureaucracy, and potentially even taxation, over US activities such as seabed mining. President Clinton signed the implementation agreement in 1994, and the US military abides by it religiously, but the treaty itself has never been ratified by the Senate.

    “We are limited in our ability to strengthen international law… if we cannot lead by example,” said Sen. Jack Reed, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a rare public divergence from SASC chairman John McCain. ”The United States has not yet ratified UNCLOS, despite calls from our top military leaders who agree it will strengthen our national security.

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    Replies
    1. China is bound to UNCLOS ruling; the USA is not a party to the dispute, and it is irrelevant whether it is a signatory to the treaty or not.

      GAB

      Delete
    2. "China is bound to UNCLOS ruling; the USA is not a party to the dispute, and it is irrelevant whether it is a signatory to the treaty or not."

      What he said!

      Delete
  7. An interesting issue is Taiping Is, the largest of the Spratley group and is a real island, not a rock or a reef, being 0.8mi long and 0.25mi wide. It hasnt been built up by dredging but its main feature is a runway and a small manmade harbour.
    The really interesting part is that this island, which is claimed by Philippines and Vietnam is controlled by Taiwan ( ROC), who are with China on this whole issue.
    This didnt come up in the Arbitartion Court, as technically ROC is separate entity, but the whole issue about 'rocks and reefs' goes out the window when you have a bona fide island in the mix. China and ROC both see themselves as part of the one country, so it puts China's flag back on a real island in this contested area at some point in the future ?

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    Replies
    1. ZK,

      Taiping island did came up in the ruling, not specifically but as part of whole Spratley group, which the court deemed as 'rocks' for all of them. (the court deemed 'island' must have previous permanent inhabitants on it, not just sheltering fishermen, freshwater or greens).

      If Taiwan submits itself under the court ruling, then it puts itself under the 'one China' principle headed by PROC which got smacked by the court.

      However, Taiwan/ROC can pull a 'USA' on the ruling: ROC never signed up for UNCLOS, thus the law does not apply.

      Thus the 'twilight zone' extra-legal approach, probably best for Taiwan; and the Philippines (regarding a potential EEZ claim by extension, from PRC via 'one China' policy).

      Tim

      Delete
  8. Thats interesting. That ruling could place at risk the Leeward Is, which are reefs and atolls that are a continuation past the Hawaiian chain, thats if the US ratifys the UNLoS, which it wont. Even Midway, an atoll not much bigger than Taiping, doesnt have permanent inhabitants ( and its not part of Hawaii)

    ReplyDelete