East Sea: China needs to change behavior for its own sake
Maintaining peace and security in the East Sea and strictly implementing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is completely in line with China's interests, and with its important role in the international arena.
|The joint statement of France, the UK and Germany on the situation in the East Sea.|
The East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea) is located on the world's bustling sea and air routes, connecting the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, Asia and other continents, thereby promoting trade exchanges in the region and the world as a whole.
If the East Sea is unstable, if the law-based sea order there is not respected, or if the East Sea falls into the comprehensive control of a single power, it will affect the regional and international maritime and aviation arteries, causing difficulties for commercial transport activities in the area, which accounts for more than 50% of the global total. It also affects international oil prices and energy security as more than one-third of the world's crude oil and more than half of the world's liquefied gas volume is transported through the East Sea.
Direct and powerful claims
Countries in and outside the region have vital political, security, and economic interests in protecting peace, security, stability, freedom of maritime and aviation navigation, and law-based order in the East Sea. Therefore, the illegal activities of China’s HD8 vessel group as well as Chinese intentions in the East Sea have been strongly condemned by many countries outside Asia.
On August 5, a senior representative of the European Union (EU) on security and foreign affairs expressed concern about tensions in the East Sea, stressing the importance of full compliance with UNCLOS.
On August 28, the EU continued to raise its concerns over instability in the East Sea, criticizing unilateral actions that escalate tensions and worsen the maritime security environment in the area, calling on parties to seek support of third sides, including arbitration, to accelerate the settlement of the East Sea disputes.
Although the EU had voiced its opinion on the issue twice, the three key member states of the EU - France, the UK and Germany - decided to issue a three-party declaration to more clearly express their position.
Accordingly, in addition to the content in the statements of the EU, France, the UK, and Germany also emphasized the universal value of UNCLOS, affirming that UNCLOS has comprehensive provisions on all maritime issues and maritime activities of all countries must be based on UNCLOS. The declaration also reiterated the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the East Sea Arbitration, calling for respect for the rights of coastal states in their waters.
This statement is to refute the wrong arguments about historical rights or maritime claims that are contrary to the provisions of UNCLOS that China has made recently.
Across the Pacific Ocean, the United States has made the most direct and powerful speeches. The US has made many speeches at various levels and channels, criticizing China's bullying, coercion and provocation towards oil and gas activities in the East Sea area of other countries, including Vietnam.
The United States criticized China for showcasing its strength, using various measures such as land reclamation, militarization, and intimidation against other countries. Washington argued that China's activities go against China's own commitment and neglect the rule-based order. At the same time, the US affirmed its commitment to maintaining its presence in the East Sea; and called on its allies and partners to voice against provocations and violations of international law of China.
|US State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said that China's actions undermine regional peace and security.|
The later US statements became stronger and stronger. The US State Department's July 20 statement only expressed "concern" about China's interference with Vietnam's "long-standing oil and gas activities" and did not confirm Vietnam's waters or mention the behavior of China’s HD8 vessel group.
The August 22 statement expressed "deep concern", directly criticizing the behavior of the HD8 ship group, stating that Vietnam's long-standing oil and gas activities are conducted within the claimed exclusive economic zone of Vietnam.
On September 4, in a speech delivered at the international conference on the Indian Ocean, the US government confirmed for the first time that the area China violated belongs to "Vietnam's exclusive economic zone".
Earlier, on July 26, Senator Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also confirmed that the Chinese activities violated "Vietnam's sovereignty and rights in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone”.
Different geographic locations, same strategic interests
The serious violation of China’s HD8 vessel group in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf has become a big problem, attracting special attention of the international community.
All Southeast Asian states (through ASEAN), the most important countries in Asia, Indian - Pacific Ocean region (including Japan, Australia, India, South Korea), all EU members (through the EU), the most important countries in the EU (France, Germany, the UK) and the three permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council (including the US, the UK and France) ) all voiced their concern at different levels about the violation of the HD8 vessel group in the waters of Vietnam.
Although countries have different geographical positions and different interests in the East Sea issue, they share a strategic benefit for maintaining peace and stability in this strategically important water.
To do this, respect for international law including UNCLOS is desirable and required by all countries, and this is also a way to ensure the strategic interests of related countries.
Maintaining peace, security, friendship and cooperation in the East Sea, and strictly implementing UNCLOS are fully in line with China's interests and with China's growing role in the national arena, promoting the initiatives of "Community of Common Destiny", "Belt and Road", and "Blue Sea".
Vietnam, and countries in the region and the international community attach great importance to Chinese civilization and the Chinese nation, wishing China to develop and actively contribute to peace, security, friendship, cooperation and prosperity in the East Sea.
Countries have a common strategic benefit for maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea
In response, China also needs to recognize the concerns of other countries inside and outside the region. They need to realize that their violations in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone are not only a conflict between China and Vietnam, but also an issue related to peace, security, economic development, trade, international maritime and air navigation, and regional security structure because of the close attachment to the interests of countries inside and outside the region and the strategic importance of the East Sea.
China needs to see that it will isolate itself, and lose prestige and international status of a great power if it continues to act unilaterally based on strength, despite the rule , ignoring the opinion of the international community.
The key benefit of all countries is associated to maintaining the legal order in the East Sea. The East Sea will be a peaceful, stable, prosperous and open sea if the legal order is respected and maintained. On the contrary, erosion of maritime laws will threaten peace, security, stability and development in the area.
Protecting the law-based order in the East Sea is a common responsibility of the international community. Therefore, the international community needs to continue to coordinate, make stronger commitments to better protect the maritime legal order in the East Sea and oppose more fiercely and directly China’s illegal actions. Thus, China will understand the problem and will have to change its behavior for the benefit of China itself as well as for the common interests of the region and the world.
The area of waters and continental shelf in which Vietnam can enjoy the rights for the sea and resources in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is approximately 1 million square kilometers.
Many ancient Chinese bibliographies, recorded by the Chinese themselves, directly or indirectly, recognize Vietnam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagos of Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) and Truong Sa (Spratly Islands).