Viet­nam’s claims do not hold wa­ter

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

In safe­guard­ing its ma­rine rights and in­ter­ests, China at­taches great im­por­tance to le­git­i­macy. In deal­ing with the dis­putes in the South China Sea, China com­plies with the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the La­wof the Sea and in­ter­na­tional norms.

UNCLOS grants coastal states sovereignty over ter­ri­to­rial seas and sov­er­eign rights to ex­plore and ex­ploit the nat­u­ral re­sources in exclusive eco­nomic zones. In 1996, China drew­base­lines for the Xisha Is­lands and mea­sured the ter­ri­to­rial sea and exclusive eco­nomic zones ac­cord­ingly.

China abides by UNCLOS in ex­plor­ing and ex­ploit­ing nat­u­ral gas and oil re­sources in the South China Sea, and Viet­nam has no right to crit­i­cize China’s drilling plat­form that has en­tered into oper­a­tion near the Xisha Is­lands.

As petroleum and nat­u­ral gas re­sources are lo­cated mainly on the con­ti­nen­tal shelf, the fish­ing re­sources are prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant re­sources in exclusive eco­nomic zones, and be­cause of the in­creas­ing num­ber of Viet­namese fish­er­men in China’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters around the Xisha Is­lands, Hainan prov­ince had to is­sue spe­cial reg­u­la­tions to main­tain se­cu­rity in 2013.

From the past to now, Viet­nam pro­claims the ma­rine ar­eas where it is ex­ploit­ing and ex­plor­ing for oil and nat­u­ral gas re­sources are within its exclusive eco­nomic zones, which is ground­less and in vi­o­la­tion of UNCLOS. In 1992, China au­tho­rized Cre­stone in Amer­ica to ex­plore and ex­ploit nat­u­ral re­sources in­Wan-an Bank, how­ever, Viet­nam moved a drilling rig there, and sent gun­boats and armed fish­ing ves­sels to make trou­ble.

Base­lines are start­ing points to mea­sure ter­ri­to­rial sea, exclusive eco­nomic zones and con­ti­nen­tal shelf, and there are three types, among which, straight base­lines are one. Where the coast­line is deeply indented or there is a fringe of is­lands in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of the coast, coastal states may se­lect ap­pro­pri­ate base points and con­nect them to form straight base­lines. From the per­spec­tive of in­ter­na­tional prac­tice, off­shore is­lands used as base points should in gen­eral be no fur­ther than 24 nau­ti­cal miles from a coun­try’s coast. Viet­nam has adopted straight base­lines us­ing nine off­shore is­lands that are small and iso­lated, and more se­ri­ously, dis­tant from the coast. Five of the afore­men­tioned off­shore isles are at a dis­tance more than 50 nau­ti­cal miles from Viet­nam’s coast. It is Viet­nam not China that is dis­re­gard­ing UNCLOS.

China will re­main res­o­lute in safe­guard­ing sovereignty over its South China Sea is­lands and the ad­ja­cent ma­rine ar­eas.

“Land dom­i­nates the sea” is what UNCLOS in­sists on. China en­joys sovereignty over the South China Sea is­lands and their ter­ri­to­rial seas, and sov­er­eign rights over the exclusive eco­nomic zones and con­ti­nen­tal shelf re­spec­tively, which was stated by China in the diplo­matic note it sent to UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon in re­sponse to the joint propo­si­tion of Viet­nam and Malaysia for outer con­ti­nen­tal shelf boundary de­lim­i­ta­tion.

In the ma­rine ar­eas around the Nan­sha Is­lands, more than 1,000 oil and nat­u­ral gas wells ex­ist, but none be­long to China. Due to the dif­fi­cul­ties in lo­gis­ti­cal sup­ply and tech­ni­cal back­ward­ness, China in­deed lags be­hind in re­sources ex­plo­ration and ex­ploita­tion there.

In the 1960’s, the pre­lim­i­nary proof of en­riched nat­u­ral re­sources on the con­ti­nen­tal shelf in the East China Sea caught the eyes of Ja­pan, which speeded up its ne­go­ti­a­tions with the United States for the re­turn of the Ok­i­nawa Is­lands. Ten years later, the same rea­son en­cour­aged the Philip­pines to claim sovereignty overHuangyan Is­land.

In terms of in­ter­ests and rights pro­tec­tion, ac­tion seems to be speak­ing louder than words. Be­ing the main form of ex­er­cis­ing sovereignty, ad­min­is­tra­tive ju­ris­dic­tion in­cludes mi­gra­tion man­age­ment and eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties reg­u­la­tion. And Viet­nam it­self has taken a se­ries of ad­vance­ments, le­git­i­mate or not.

Oil and nat­u­ral gas re­sources are of ex­treme im­por­tance to the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion of China and safe­guard­ing China’s in­ter­ests will bring about ac­tual ef­fects vis­i­ble to the people. The au­thor is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at theHainan Provin­cial Party School.

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