Nations have begun to rally in defense of “freedom of navigation” around the South China Sea most of which is claimed by a nine-dashed line (initially 11 dashes by a Chinese idealist in 1936). As controversy builds around the issue, prominent Chinese scholars have come forward to debunk this ox-tongue demarcation that a Republic of China official sketched on his personal map reflecting his opinion that Chinese fishermen extended their country’s sovereignty where they fished.
Among the nations leading the rally in defense of the global commons are Vietnam, the Philippines, the United States and Japan. Meanwhile, the ten-member ASEAN (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) expressed support of such action in the 2015 ASEAN conference hosted by Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.
ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh spoke on behalf of member nations willing to rally in defense of the South China Sea. His statement was a rebuke to China’s building of artificial islands in the contested area.
“We are calling for the termination of such activities, which are of concern to us, and eroding trust and confidence among the parties, and complicating the very process of negotiating.”
According to The Diplomat, Vietnam has co-opted a proven idea to rally around, establishing “maritime domain awareness” in the South China Sea. This strategy entails modernizing current “marine environment and hydrometeorology observation stations” as well as building new ones to establish a network of 35 such stations in total by 2020. This integrated network comes as a defense of its territorial claims. To complement its Su-30MK2 fighter jets and Kilo-class submarines, Vietnam’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (I.S.R.) suite ensures readiness for China’s next gambit.
Meanwhile, as one of the nations under duress, the Philippines has been compelled to rally up innovative technology in which to find shelter from a Chinese onslaught. With a constitution that refutes war as an instrument of national policy limiting their options, Filipinos are preparing to launch their Diwata-1 earth observation microsatellite for self-defense.
According to Captain Jeff Davis speaking for the Pentagon in The Washington Post, guided-missile destroyer U.S.S. Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island claimed by China and other nations in the South China Sea on Saturday January 30. In a report by Inquisitr, a rally of more than 100 U.S. Navy ships has docked at the Philippine Subic naval facilities in 2015, and two advanced nuclear-powered stealth submarines have visited in the first two weeks of 2016, providing “freedom of navigation” defense.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has drafted a document describing disputes that have arisen over sovereignty between coastal nations and China as being harmful to “the maintenance of law at sea, freedom of navigation, and stability in the region.” World Affairs opines that Japan’s joining a rally against the People’s Liberation Army would be in defense of territory the Japanese people depend on for their prosperity.
Vietnam.net blames an official from the Republic of China, Bai Meichu, for fomenting a rally of discord among nations by drawing the dashed line on his personal map in 1936 based on unjustified sketches of one Hu Jinsui in 1914. Citing waters in which Chinese fishermen fished as enough defense for a sovereignty claim, Bai inadvertently left a time-bomb legacy to blow up in the faces of today’s leaders.
A Chinese scholar under the pen-name Li Woteng, posted on Sina, China’s biggest internet forum, an exposé entitled “The nine-dash line: keep or eliminate”. Insisting that truth is still respected and China cannot arbitrarily announce sovereignty over territory it has never owned, he stated that setting up the 9-dash line is baseless because all affected nations have arguments for their sovereignty over islands, but only China’s 9-dash line has no basis.
Chinese scholar Li Linghua wrote on his website to rally in defense of Li Woteng’s assertion, that China unilaterally intended to impose the 9-dash line on a large part of the 200-square-mile exclusive economic zone defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, causing conflicts and disputes.
Xue Litai, Center for International Security and Cooperation (C.I.S.A.C.) research associate at Stanford University, pointed out three problems with the 9-dash line on the Hong Kong-based Phoenix online newspaper: 1) The People’s Republic of China adhered to the cow tongue configuration on the map without demarcating the marine boundary with neighboring nations and without bothering to rally international acknowledgement; 2) Beijing has never said whether the 9-dash line is a national border line or a traditional demarcation in the sea; and 3) Beijing stood in defense of the original 11-dash line as the national border line that could not be violated, and later reversed itself by removing two dashes in the Tonkin Gulf to accommodate then friendly Communist Vietnam.
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