Turning reef into island: China is violating international law

VietNamNet Bridge – The world media and scholars have repeatedly mentioned China’s ambition to occupy the East Sea with its plan to turn the Johnson South Reef (Gac Ma in Vietnamese) into an island and illegal expansion of a number of places in Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago. What China has been doing is a violation of international law and Vietnam’s sovereignty and has escalated tension in the region.



East Sea, China, violating international law, reef, Gac Ma

China has invested approximately 6 million USD in building illegal schools on Vietnam’s Truong Sa islands. In a recent report, the BBC unveiled China’s island construction activities at the Johnson South Reef and several other reefs that are part of Vietnam’s Truong Sa islands. This echoes a recent report by the Philippines that China might be constructing islands in 5 locations in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes: Johnson South Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, and Eldad Reef.

Ambition to occupy the East Sea

The Johnson South Reef is located at the southwestern point of the Sinh Ton or Union Reefs within Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago. After using force to occupy the Johnson South Reef of Vietnam in 1988, China has turned this reef into a solid structure and made it one of China’s illegal military bases in the East Sea. Since February 2014 China has continued to expand this reef on the largest scale ever. Tens of bulldozers, cranes and fishing boats have been pumping a huge volume of sand onto the reef. In less than 6 months the reef has become an artificial island with construction underway on a seaport, a quay, and a parking lot with a relatively long runway. China’s construction on the Johnson South Reef is evidence of China’s illegal ambitious plan to monopolize the East Sea. Doctor Tran Cong Truc, former head of the Government Border Committee, said:  “This is part of China’s scheme to realize a claim which has no legal grounds. China is trying to create a legal basis to make its claim conform to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea by turning reefs into islands with enough space for human life and economic activities. This is part of China’s calculation.”

China is seriously violating international law

Doctor Truc said China is seriously violating international law by expanding the reefs it seized by force from Vietnam: “China is intentionally misinterpreting the law of the sea and creating islands to usurp the legitimate interests and rights of other coastal countries under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The construction and expansion of occupied areas in the archipelago violates the agreements between regional countries including the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) between ASEAN and China while the parties involved are trying to adopt a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).”

Analysts say China’s island construction activities in the East Sea serve military purposes. Its construction of a runway will support the establishment of an air defense identification zone in the East Sea. Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario says China’s East Sea policy threatens regional security and stability and that China wants to finish its construction in the East Sea before a Code of Conduct in the East Sea is adopted.

China’s ambition to monopolize the East Sea demonstrates that although China touts a policy of peaceful rise, it disrespects international law and does not act for the world community’s sake.

VOV/VNN

East Sea, China, violating international law, reef, Gac Ma
 
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