China’s sovereign claims in East Sea groundless: int’l scholars

International scholars have affirmed that there is no legal foundation for China’s declaration of sovereignty over almost all of the East Sea area and that its U-shaped line is unreasonable.

They emphasised this at a seminar entitled “The East Sea and Asia Pacific in Transition: Exploring Options for Managing Disputes” in Washington DC on June 28.

The event, held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), focused on recent developments in the East Sea, the East Sea in the ASEAN-US-China relations, and assessment of significance of the East Sea in a changing regional landscape. 

The role of international laws and norms in resolving and managing disputes as well as resolution and policy recommendations to boost security and cooperation in the East Sea were also considered.

Professor Carlyle Thayer from the Australian Defence Force Academy said oil and gas blocks in the area that China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has recently advertised for international tender in fact belong to Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

He said the Vietnam National Assembly’s recent adoption of the Law on the Sea is a positive development as it is necessary for the country to exploit their offshore resources. He affirmed that Vietnam required the new laws because marine industries will make up 50 percent of its GDP by 2025.

According to the senior expert, China’s U-shaped line, created in 1948, is not legal because it was drawn before the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was signed in 1982.

At the seminar, Dr. Tran Truong Thuy, Director of the Centre for East Sea Studies under the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, presented a map of the nine blocks in the East Sea, reaffirming that it is within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and is not a disputed area.

Kunt Campell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Dr. Bonnie Glasser, a CSIS expert in Asia, urged that any company which wants to submit a bid for developing resources through a Chinese proxy operating within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone should think twice before making up their mind because it may raise concerns and these companies are likely to face high risks.

For his part, Kunt Campell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, stressed that the US opposes any use of force to handle disputes in the East Sea.

Scholars shared the view that ASEAN should play an important role in settling disputes in the East Sea.