East Sea tensions warned to get out of control

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The international community has expressed deep concern about escalating tensions in the East Sea caused by China, and several scholars even said the situation may get out of control unless a viable solution is introduced.

East Sea, Vietnamese boat, international law

A China Coast Guard ship aggressively firing water cannons at a Vietnamese boat near the rig

Tensions have mounted in the East Sea after China placed its giant floating drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in early May. Its escort vessels, including warships, have constantly intimidated and attacked Vietnamese law enforcement boats, injuring people on board and damaging their property.  

Australian Senator Scott Ryan said parties concerned should respect international law and act in line with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Australia does not take sides but has an interest in maintaining peace and stability, respecting international law and assuring maritime freedom, he said.

He called upon all parties concerned to exercise restraint and avoid additional provocative acts that may further complicate the situation.

The governments need to clarify and follow territorial declarations and maritime rules in line with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, Ryan said.

He suggested that China and ASEAN member countries should promptly conclude a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) a- a more legally binding document to handle territorial disputes in the region.

On June 21, US President Barack Obama urged China and neighbouring nations to peacefully resolve the East Sea dispute and avoid escalating tensions.

"It is important for us to be able to resolve disputes like maritime disputes in accordance with international law, and encourage all parties concerned to maintain a legal framework for resolving issues, as opposed to possible escalation that could have an impact on navigation and commerce," said Obama.

Obama made the statement after meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at the White House.

For his part, John Key clarified New Zealand’s stance that all parties concerned should fully observe international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, noting this is very crucial to peace and stability in the region and the world at large.

China’s provocative actions in the East Sea continue to grab international headlines. Malaysia’s Star Online on June 22 published an interview with Dr David Arase from the John Hopkins University-Nanjing University-Centre for Chinese and American Studies.

Dr Arase described China’s placement of its oil platform, along with the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the disputed area, as a major concern that can cause things to “get out of control”.

According to Arase, China considers the East Sea a strategic area and wants to control security in the region. It recently intensified actions in an attempt to legalise its sovereign claim [the nine-dash line] in the East Sea, but both Chinese officials and scholars are not able to explain their claim.

“What this means is that China’s position is still fluid. Even though it’s being assertive, it’s not yet quite clear about all the details, so this is a great opportunity for the countries in the region to respond,” he said.

Dr Arase suggested that ASEAN should get China to make clear the maritime boundaries which they are claiming before disputes over borders can be resolved.

Voice of Russia recently quoted Vasily Kashin, an expert at Russian Strategic Analysis and Technology Center, warning the US and other regional countries about China’s plan to build an artificial island in the East Sea.

Kashin believes that the artificial island will be large enough for a military base with an airfield and a dock for 5,000-tonne warship and ship.

The New York Times cited Holly Morrow of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs who notes that China will exploit oil in its waters and others in the neighbouring countries to mislead the public that its operation is normal.

The Philippines’ Inquirer cited Charles Jose, the Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, saying “China’s provocative and unilateral actions have lent credence to the view that it is pursuing an aggressive expansion agenda to advance its nine-dash-line position in the South China Sea [East Sea]”.

Source: VOV

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