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Thayer Reader Riposte South China Sea and ASEAN

Thayer Reader Riposte South China Sea and ASEAN

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
A critical review of Michael Wesley's "What's at stake in the South China Sea," Snapshot (Lowy Institute for Internatinonal Affairs).
A critical review of Michael Wesley's "What's at stake in the South China Sea," Snapshot (Lowy Institute for Internatinonal Affairs).

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Jul 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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by Reader Riposte - 31 July 2012 10:42AMCarl Thayer writes:Michael Wesley's Snapshot, What's at stake in the South China Sea,contains three major assertions and one policy recommendation that I take issue with.Wesley's first assertion is that China claims the South China Seaas its territorial waters and this would restrict the passage of United States warships. China's 1992 Law on Territorial Sea only claimed 12 nautical miles of territorial waters around the Paraceland Spratly islands. China did not issue a map showing thebaselines around individual islands and rocks. Also China did notclaim a regime of islands; the inference that China has claimed the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters is one drawnby US Navy legal specialists.In 2009, China officially tabled a map of the South China Seacontaining nine dashes forming a u-shape line embracing over80% of the South China Sea. China claims historic rights to thisarea. In recent years China has claimed sovereignty over theislands, rocks and their adjacent waters. This year China'sForeign Ministry stated that no country, presumably includingChina, claims the entire South China Sea.Wesley's second assertion, which is closely related to his first, is that China has challenged shipping inthe South China Sea. China has not interfered with commercial shipping. In 2011, Chinese civilianships were involved in three incidents involving oil exploration vessels in waters where China's u-shaped line overlapped with the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Philippines and Vietnam. Theseincidents did not take place in shipping lanes and have not been repeated.In 2009, China was also involved in one incident involving a US military ship (USNS Impeccable)conducting close-in surveillance in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Hainan Island. China andthe United States fundamentally disagree about the conduct of military activities in a state's EEZunder international law. This incident did not take place in an international shipping lane and has notbeen repeated.Wesley's third assertion is that China refuses to discuss the South China Sea in any regional meetingand China will only negotiate if ASEAN abandons the search for a common position. In fact ASEANhas already arrived at a common position and Chinese officials have met with ASEAN counterparts todiscuss the modalities of future discussions.The  ASEAN Foreign Ministers unanimously adopted the key elements of a Code of Conduct in theSouth China Sea at their ministerial meeting in July. China officially stated it is willing to discuss thecode of conduct with ASEAN members 'when conditions are ripe'. At the same time, Chinese and

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