Violation of international law
Carl Thayer, Emeritus Professor of the Australian Defense Force Academy, says China’s recent actions are an intentional violation of international law. China has no legal ground for actions but has repeatedly claimed sovereignty over islands and waters in the East Sea, ignoring rulings by the Permanent Court of Arbitration and UNCLOS.
| Carl Thayer, Emeritus Professor of the Australian Defense Force Academy
Professor Thayer says China’s actions over the past three years reveal that Beijing has two prime objectives. The first objective is to establish hegemony over the exploration of marine resources (including oil and gas) in the maritime area within the so-called nine-dash line. China disrupts oil exploration activities by nearby countries and pressures them to enter into joint development with China. China’s second objective is to exclude distant countries from marine resource exploration in the East Sea. This is evident from China’s insistence that cooperation on the marine economy should be carried out by China and nearby countries “and shall not be conducted in cooperation with companies from countries outside the region.” American Congressman Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement calling China’s recent aggression in the East Sea a “disturbing demonstration of a country openly flouting international law”.
|Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Anthony Nelson, Director of the East Asia and Pacific Practice at Albright Stonebridge Group, said China’s geological survey in another country’s sovereign waters in the East Sea violates UNCLOS. He said China’s extension of the type of action they have been taking for sometimes is aimed at trying to aggressively search claim to the resources and trying to destruct anyone trying to utilize them.
|Stein Tonnesson, Professor at Norway’s Oslo Peace Research Institute
Stein Tonnesson, Professor at Norway’s Oslo Peace Research Institute, said: “Under the Law of the Sea, China has no right to resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone or on the continental shelf of other countries. Continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone are calculated from main coast. So when China is now trying to enforce its U-shape line which is not in concern in international law, it’s really about development. This time, China is not drilling but conducting surveys systematically and in large area of East Sea and at the same time it’s preventing other countries from doing survey on their continental shelf. It’s doing itself in the area where China has no sovereignty right and prevents Vietnam from doing in the area where Vietnam has sovereign right.”
Researcher Collin Koh of Singapore said if China continues actions which escalate tensions in the East Sea its attempt to build the image of a responsible country over the years will collapse.
Violation of regional commitments
China’s actions violate both UNCLOS and its joint commitment with ASEAN countries under the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea which China signed at the 8th ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in 2002. China committed to work with ASEAN countries to promote an environment of peace, friendship, and conciliation in the East Sea, to not use or threaten to use force, and to comply with international law including UNCLOS.
The international community must be united in protecting and abiding by international law to ensure justice and order. If any country ignores international law and uses military force to violate other countries’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, it weakens international law and maritime law and damages its own image.