China’s operations in the South China Sea, including its “historic claims” to almost all parts of the vital trade route “undermine the rule of law” in the oceans and universally recognized provisions in international law, the US concluded came in a new report.
The U.S. State Department said in a report released Wednesday that the overall effect of Beijing’s claims is that it “unlawfully claims sovereignty or some form of exclusive jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea.” .
“For this reason, the United States and numerous other states have rejected these claims in favor of the rules-based international maritime order within the South China Sea and worldwide.”
The report, entitled Limits in the Seas, said that apart from the lack of “substantive content”, China’s declaration of “historical rights” over the 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq miles) sea “is lacking for its vagueness”.
“The PRC has stated that its historical rights are ‘protected by international law’, but it has not provided a legal justification for such a claim,” the report said, referring to the country with its official name, the People’s Republic of China. (PRC)).
China calls its so-called “nine-dash-line” to enforce its rights across the entire South China Sea.
An international tribunal in The Hague has declared that the claim has “no legal basis”, based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to which Beijing is a signatory, after the Philippines, which also claims parts of the South China Sea, brought legally. action against Beijing.
Washington has strengthened its rhetoric and diplomatic efforts to challenge Beijing on several issues, including questioning the reported mass detention of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang as well as the adoption of the Hong Kong National Security Act, since Joe Biden took office as president a year ago.
It also sent several aircraft carriers and battleships to claim “freedom of navigation” rights in the South China Sea, while also consolidating its alliances with other regional powers such as India, Japan and Australia by the Indo-Pacific Quad Group.
Apart from China, parts of the South China Sea are also claimed by Taiwan as well as neighboring countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.
In recent years, China has increased its military presence in the region and built artificial islands and air bases, where it installed missile systems and other equipment.
China’s so-called maritime militia has been deployed and is accused of “harassing” fishermen from the Philippines. “swarm” parts of the sea within Manila’s exclusive economic zone. In October, Malaysia has accused China of “invading” its seas.
These activities have turned the resource-rich regional waters into a potential hotspot, threatening to disrupt as much as $ 5 trillion in world trade.
The latest State Department report also questioned China’s claims of “sovereignty” over more than 100 features in the South China Sea that have been submerged in floodwaters.
“Such claims are contrary to international law, in terms of which such features are not subject to a legitimate sovereignty requirement or are capable of generating maritime zones such as a territorial sea,” the report said.
China has used sovereignty claims over such features to either sign or assert the right to sign, “straight baselines” and claim territorial waters.
The US says “none of the four ‘island groups’ claimed by China” in the South China Sea have met the geographical criteria for using straight baselines under the Convention.
“There is no separate body of international customary law that supports the PRC’s position that it can include entire island groups within straight baselines,” the report reads.
It is also “not permitted by international law” for China to claim inland waters, a territorial sea, an exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf “based on the treatment of every alleged South China Sea. archipelago as a whole ”.
“Within its alleged maritime zones, the PRC also makes numerous jurisdictional claims that are contrary to international law,” the report said.
China has not yet responded to the report, but it has repeatedly rejected the 2016 Hague ruling rejecting the “nine-dash line” while insisting on its “historic rights” over the South China Sea.
In the past, it has said that its military presence in the South China Sea is “entirely for the purpose of self-defense” and that it has no intention of “seeking hegemony” or “establishing spheres of influence” in the region.