Chinese need to be told about Beijing’s sea lies
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2020 - 12:00am

Every year the People’s Liberation Army-Navy sails an armada to China’s “southernmost territory.” James Reef in the South China Sea (SCS) is 1,000 miles distant from China and only 50 miles off Malaysia. There the Chinese sailors hoist their flag, sing their national hymn and pledge fealty to the Communist Party. Everything looks solemn except for the fact that James Reef is 30 meters undersea (equivalent to a ten-story building). It’s a wonder that no PLAN admiral questions the absurdity of it all. Not even ancient Romans, who treated the Mediterranean as “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”), marked the empire’s boundaries via submersibles.

James Reef is in fact wrongly translated in Chinese as an above-water sandbar. It is like calling Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a ring of rocks and reefs, Huangyan Island. Only 120 miles from Luzon and for centuries called by Filipinos Bajo de Masinloc after the jurisdictional mainland town, it is 800 miles from China. Yet Beijing claims that too as its southeastern-most border. (It even “owns” Okinawa to the east.) Other crude translations of British Admiralty maps comprise China’s invented “ancient historic rights” to the SCS as its inner lake. The Kuomintang had copied the maps in imagined Chinese sea supremacy before the humiliating colonization. A tale was spun that Chinese engineers had scanned the sea from a series of towers on the mainland. Yet ignorance showed in the lack of ancient differentiations of basic sea features as island (with own freshwater source), uninhabitable sandbar and underwater reef, rock, shoal, atoll, bank and deep.

Still Beijing lives the lie. It claims ownership of the entire SCS by virtue of a “nine-dash line” chart with no longitude and latitude coordinates. Since 1949 takeover the communists have mis-educated every Chinese citizen in what retired justice Antonio Carpio has labeled the “fake news of the millennium.”

China, like all ASEAN littoral states, is a signatory of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Under that world law, no submerged marker can serve as a boundary of inner seas. Nor may it generate outwards a 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Hague arbitral tribunal upheld those in July 2016, favoring the Philippines. Beijing’s concreting of three Philippine reefs into artificial islands cannot also generate EEZs. Outlawing the “nine-dash” farce, the court said Beijing’s reef concreting in fact irreparably damaged the marine environment.

Beijing’s commissars are conspiratorial Leninists, bent on perpetual one-party rule. With China thriving economically, the demand for democratization is growing. The communist rulers need a diversionary issue to keep the Chinese under their dictatorship. Most convenient is to claim that “bullies” like the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Indonesia are stealing the SCS. Only the gullible or the co-opted believes that, US assistant state secretary for Asia-Pacific David Stilwell remarked. It is China that poaches fish; explores oil, gas, rare metals and new medicines; and militarizes other countries’ EEZs.

The world must wake up the Chinese to the truth, Carpio told the recent global webinar of the National Youth Movement on the West Philippine Sea. Many countries have begun to do so, he said:

• Since 2002 under a Declaration of Conduct, ASEAN states have asked for resolution of SCS disputes in accordance with international law, especially UNCLOS.

• During The Hague proceedings Vietnam wrote the Tribunal that China’s nine-dash line has no legal or factual basis, yet encroaches on its jurisdiction. Ignoring China’s “historic claim,” Vietnam also filed its extended continental shelf.

• Before the arbitral award came out, the European Union and G-7 countries stated that Manila and Beijing should comply with whatever ruling.

• After the award came out, Indonesia renamed its EEZ in the Natuna Islands, where China poaches, as the North Natuna Sea, citing as basis the invalidation of China’s nine-dash line.

• Before and after the award, Malaysia filed two extended continental shelf declarations facing the SCS, rejecting China’s concocted historical claim that encroaches on it.

• India called for dispute settlement under UNCLOS.

• On the fourth anniversary of the award last July 12, the US declared support for the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Indonesia, and warned against any more bullying by China.

• Australia wrote the UN General Assembly that no country should be bound by the nine-dash line despite China’s militarization and propaganda.

“There are those who claim that the award remains unenforceable since the UNCLOS has no mechanism for it,” Carpio said. “On the contrary the award is being strongly enforced regularly. Every time that American, British, French, Australian, Japanese and Canadian military vessels and aircraft conduct naval and aerial exercises in the West Philippine Sea, they rebut China’s claim that no other coastal state has an EEZ in the WPS. The naval powers conduct freedom of navigation and over-flight exercises in the WPS precisely because there is an EEZ in the WPS.”

Under international law and UNCLOS, navies legally can conduct sea and air exercises in EEZs anywhere in the world. But they may not extract or explore resources in the EEZ of any country.

China shrilly protests the freedom of navigation and over-flight operations of other countries in the WPS yet its People’s Liberation Army-Navy has been conducting exercises in the EEZs in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas without consent of the coastal states. The PLAN has also drilled in the EEZs of Australia, Guam, Hawaii and Alaska without securing any country’s consent. The Chinese people must be told of that double standard.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book “Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government” is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Expos%C3%A9s-Investigative-Reporting-Clean-Government-ebook/dp/B00EPX01BG

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Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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