Background Briefing:South China Sea: The DriversBehind Current TensionsCarlyle A. ThayerMay 18, 2013
[client name deleted]- Why are these various territorial disputes happening now and getting noisier?Some have cited factors such as China's rise, the competition for resources, theUnited States' Asia pivot. Do you agree and what are the key/real factors in youropinion? What other factors are at play?ANSWER: I think the starting point to answer your question 1992 when China passeda domestic Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone in anticipation of thecoming into effect of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. UNCLOSchanged the maritime ballgame by providing for specific maritime zones and varyinglevels of sovereign jurisdiction.
In the 1990s there was a notable “scramble for theSpratlys” in which Vietn
am and China occupied as many features (islets and rocks)above high tide as they could. This then resulted in exaggerated claims tosovereignty over islands, rocks and features in the South China Sea by most of thelittoral states. These claims resulted in overlapping zones of maritime jurisdiction.The first ASEAN statement on the South China Sea was issued in 1992 in response totensions arising between China and Vietnam over oil exploration in the South ChinaSea. China granted the US-based Crestone Energy Corporation a concession in an
area overlapping Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
I would same the next turning point came in 2009 in response to the May 13
deadline by the United Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Stateswishing to claim an extended continental shelf beyond their 200 nautical mile EEZwere invited to make a submission. Vietnam and Malaysia lodged a joint submissionfor the area around the Spratly Islands and Vietnam issues a separate submissioncovering the area near
the Paracels. Both the Philippines and China objected. China’s
objection was accompanied by the tabling of a nine-dash line u-shaped map. In 1947the Republic of China issued a map with eleven dash lines including approximately80 per cent of the South Ch
ina Sea. This map was adopted by the People’s Republic
of China after 1949; but it was only in May 2009 that it was officially tabled with theUN. China then began to assertively pursue its claims to sovereign jurisdiction bytwice cutting the cable of sei
smic research ships operating in Vietnam’s EEZ, and
threatening to ram an oil exploration in Filipino waters.
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