China’s long-term strategy to capture the East Sea - Part 2

Part 2: Ignoring international law

China’s statements and actions to "monopolize" the East Sea, with the latest act of illegal deployment of the HD-981 oil rig deep in the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam, are irrational, and they seriously breach international law.

China’s long-term plot to capture the East Sea: Part 1

china, east sea, oil rig, international law

China's illegal deployment of the HD-981 oil rig deep in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam is unacceptable.

China has ignored the most basic spirit of the UN Charter. With the act of "invasion" of sovereignty in the East Sea, China has violated the basic principles prescribed in Article 2 of the UN Charter, especially the principle of sovereign equality, prohibiting the use of and threatening to use force; settling disputes by peaceful means, and not endangering peace and international security and justice; and the principle of states being obliged to cooperate with each other.

Beijing also has violated Article 33 of the "peaceful settlement of disputes," which states: The parties in disputes must firstly find a peaceful solution through negotiation, investigation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, use of organizations or regional agreements, or by other peaceful means.

China has seriously violated international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) of which it is a member. The UNCLOS allows coastal states the right to set the exclusive economic zone that does not exceed 200 nautical miles from the baselines; as well as a continental shelf, with the width from the baseline to the continental margin being the narrowest and widest of 200 and 350 nautical miles.

But because the principles of international law stipulate that "the land dominates the sea", the width of any territorial waters in the East Sea should be based on the projected direction from the mainland.

The settlement of territorial water delimitation is expressed in the UNCLOS, in particular Article 15 (delimitation of territorial waters), Article 74 (delimitation of the exclusive economic zone), Article 83 (continental shelf boundary) and Article 121 (regulation of the islands). To compare these provisions, the statement about the "nine-dotted line” and the acts establishing sovereignty under "this line" have no legal basis.

China’s use of force to occupy the Paracel Islands and some islands of the Spratly Islands of Vietnam to assert "legal" sovereignty in "relevant waters" and "adjacent waters" under the "nine-dotted line" is a further wrong step.

Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter states: "The territory of a State shall not be the object of a military occupation by use of force contrary to the provisions of the Charter."

Moreover, at the time of 1974, the government of South Vietnam filed a protest to the United Nations, published a white paper on the islands and condemned the illegal invasion of China over the Paracel Islands of Vietnam. Since then, Vietnam has always confirmed Paracels and Spratlys Islands as inseparable parts of Vietnam's territory.

Under international law, a territorial occupation shall not be considered terminated simply by the disappearance of evidence of physical occupation. In other words, the disruption of expression of material occupation itself does not disrupt the sovereignty of a country if they do not state its abandonment of the territory clearly.

In accordance with this direction, China’s claims that its deployment of drilling rig HD-981 17 nautical miles from the Tri Ton Island of the Paracel Islands was "legal" is a fallacy. Only Vietnam – the country having the legal rights to the Paracel Islands – has sovereignty and sovereign rights over the area around it.

China has seriously violated the agreements signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), particularly the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) signed in 2002.

According to this document, the parties confirmed compliance to the objectives and principles of the UN Charter and the UNCLOS; to a commitment to resolve territorial disputes by peaceful measures, not using force or threatening to use force, in accordance with the universal principles of international law; and to a commitment to refrain from conducting activities that could increase tensions or disputes and could affect peace and stability.

The recent activities of China clearly breached the DOC because it "infringed" on the Scarborough Shoal, which is about 124 nautical miles from the coast of the Philippines and totally within this country’s exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles; setting the drilling rig 80 miles in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam, issuing a fishing ban in the East Sea, and claiming sovereignty under the "nine-dotted line".

Finally, China’s words and actions run counter to high-level commitments and agreements with Vietnam, especially the agreement on the principles that resolve maritime issues between the two countries in 2011.

To be continued...

Hoai Thanh

china, east sea, oil rig, international law