China claims naming South China Sea islands with English names

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
China claims naming South China Sea islands with English names
This file photo taken on April 21, 2017, shows an aerial image, from a Philippine airforce plane, of Subi Reef in the South China Sea and claimed by China.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 3:01 p.m.) — Distancing itself from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Beijing insisted that artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea have been named a long time ago.

Speaking at the 2019 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Chinese Ministry of Defense Security Cooperation Center director Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, talked about the artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, shared Zhou's pronouncements at the annual security forum.

"(I)f they are artificial islands, where did their names come from?" Koh tweeted June 1, quoting Zhou.

British journalist Bill Hayton, associate fellow at the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, said that some of the islands in the South China Sea have Chinese and English names.

Hayton noted that what the Chinese called Jin Yin Dao or Money Island in the Paracel chain was named after William Money, an English naval captain in the East India Company.

Another example was Lin Yang Jiao or Antelope Reef in the Paracels, named after a ship of the British East India Company.

Both the Money Island and Antelope Reef also have Vietnamese names — Dao Quang Anh and Da Hai Sam.

Koh also tweeted the comment of Jian Zhou of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that the UNCLOS article on artificial islands "has nothing to do with China's artificial islands" in the South China Sea.

Article 60 of the UNCLOS states that the coastal state "shall have the exclusive right to construct and to authorize and regulate the construction, operation and use of" artificial islands.

Under the UNCLOS, artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands.

"They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf," the UNCLOS read.

Speaking at the same summit, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe justified China's construction of military facilities on the artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims the South China Sea islands and reefs as part of its own territory, contrary to the UNCLOS article stating that artificial islands are not considered as islands, having no territorial sea of their own.

"China built limited defense facilities on the islands and reefs for self-defense. It is only when there are threats will there be defenses," Wei said.

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