In the South China Sea, China must bare its teeth to keep intruders at bay
I.M. Wright is usually right, but this time, in his January 9 letter, “Others will not sit (by) as China bends the rules”, he is not right to have sided with the “don’t do as I do” United States and Vietnam: the latter claims a big chunk of China’s area bounded by the nine-dash line. Hence the US Pacific Fleet spokeswoman’s words: “the (freedom of navigation) operation was not about any one country”. Are these countries trying to make one right with more wrongs?
As for the US, just because it has not ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which gives states jurisdiction over 12 nautical miles of sea extending from their coast, it is deliberately violating Chinese territorial waters, trying to provoke an isolated firefight which would then justify a more comprehensive war. This strategy is much like the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin cruises to draw the claimed Vietnamese gunboat attacks.
The area covered by the nine-dash line, within which lay the hundreds of islands and features returned by the defeated imperial Japan after the second world war, was demarcated by the Kuomintang government of China. Yongxing in the Paracels and Taiping in the Spratlys were named after the two Republic of China navy ships that went to reclaim them.
If anybody is making an excessive claim here, it would be Japan, which has built an observatory on the Okinotori rocks and claimed an enormous exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around it. It even detained a Taiwanese fishing boat operating in the claimed EEZ.
As a broken line, the nine-dash line cannot be treated as a territorial boundary. The exact coordinates of the encompassed features, and their territorial seas, can only be ascertained with reference to much larger-scale maps such as the 1947 Rand McNally maps, which indicated at least the Paracels to be Chinese.
With so much misinformation about these tiny obscure maritime features, how can China afford not to bare its teeth at encroachers?
Peter Lok, Heng Fa Chuen