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The international-law irony of U.S. provocations in South China Sea

In disregard to China's call not to disturb peace in the South China Sea, the United States has carried out another "freedom of navigation" mission there, with a U.S. Navy destroyer sailing within 12 nautical miles off Zhongjian Dao, part of China-owned Xisha Islands.

Washington has long claimed that the so-called freedom of navigation operations by the U.S. military aims to safeguard public access to waters and airspace as allowed by the international law.

However, citing seemingly lofty motives will not obscure the fact that the U.S. maneuvers in South China Sea threaten China's sovereignty and security interests, endanger regional peace and stability and constitute a grave violation of the international law.

As ironic as it is, Washington has always defended its arbitrary move by referring to international law, but it has so far not approved the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes legal order and regulations on international waters.

The calculation behind such a move is crystal clear: The United States is unwilling to be bound by an international treaty, which it claims as severely flawed, because the sole superpower has already controlled such maritime resources as oil and gas deposits through military power.

Another irony is that Uncle Sam asserts that it maintains freedom of navigation in the South China Sea on the legal basis of international law, but it applies standards unilaterally defined by itself.

In a document issued in 2015 regarding the so-called freedom of navigation program, the U.S. government said the foremost target of the U.S. action is "excessive maritime claims that are defined by the U.S. side." The document reveals that Washington substitutes its own standard for international law and attempts to unilaterally impose its own idea upon other countries.

Moreover, the U.S. action itself to maintain so-called freedom of navigation under international law is a threat to the principles of international law.

The Law of the Sea Treaty stipulates that any resort to the threat or use of force against coastal sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence, or any resort to the threat or use of force that violates purposes and principles of the UN Charter, are all regarded as actions destabilizing the peace, order or security in coastal states.

Due to shared resolve of relevant parties to keep the sea peaceful, and in no smaller part thanks to China's restraint, the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been a problem.

By repeatedly sending military ships on so-called "freedom of navigation" missions in the area, the United States is actually abusing the freedom of navigation and pursuing selfish gains at the cost of others.

It is strongly desired that Washington abandon its own standards to observe international laws and act as a responsible power, rather than stirring up trouble in the South China Sea and then making a false countercharge against others.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 31Jan16]

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East China Sea Conflict
small logoThis document has been published on 01Feb16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.