US aims to ‘challenge new maritime order’
(The US maintains the Freedom of Navigation program to) ensure to the maximum degree US military forces’ freedom and mobility in trespassing in the oceans.”
The United States is attempting to “challenge the new maritime order” with its Freedom of Navigation Program, the Foreign Ministry has said in response to a Pentagon report.
The 2015 Freedom of Navigation Report, released on Monday, summarizes the country’s challenges to what it calls — on the US Defense Department website — “excessive maritime claims” asserted by China and other countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Iran.
Washington proposed its Freedom of Navigation Program in 1979, before the 1982 signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.
The US has not signed the UNCLOS.
Instead, it maintains this program, Hua said, to “ensure to the maximum degree US military forces’ freedom and mobility in trespassing in the oceans”.
The nature of the US program is to “press ahead with the unilateral US assertions” by forceful or threatening means, through which Washington “attempts to dominate maritime order”, Hua said.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that under the UNCLOS, coastal states may require a warship to leave their territorial seas immediately if it neglects their laws and regulations on passage through the sea and “disregards any request for compliance”.
The US has taken such requests for compliance as excessive assertions, but US warships’ incursions into other countries territorial waters “run counter to international law”, Zhang said.
Under the name of Freedom of Navigation, US warships and aircraft have intruded into China’s territorial waters and airspace in the South China Sea in recent years, causing serious friction.
“Countries challenged by the US Freedom of Navigation Program have usually failed to strongly react because of their inferior defense capabilities or their need for US aid and support,” Zhang said.
Even US allies, like Japan and the Philippines, suffered US warship intrusions into their waters and silently endured such bullying, Zhang said.
Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, called Washington’s claims to uphold international law ironic and a “a slap in the face”.
The US has ulterior motives “when it flies the banner of freedom of navigation”. It wants to conduct close surveillance of Chinese islands and reefs.
“Such acts are provocations that will worsen the standoff in the region,” Ruan said.
Liang Fang, a professor of naval studies at the PLA National Defense University, said the US seldom faults the behavior of countries such as the Philippines that occupy the Chinese islands, but it closely tracks every move by China.
The US seeks allies to isolate and pressure China in the region, Liang said, but the cost will be high and “its losses may eventually outweigh its gains”.