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Xueli and Liu Mingyi:What do Five Commitments on the SCS Impl

(2015-09-11 21:23:23)
标签:

explaining

fivecommitments

china

xueli

分类: 南海研究与评论

After editor's devotion, this paper was published by THE DIPLOMAT on September 11, 2015. To read the published version, please visit :http://thediplomat.com/2015/09/explaining-chinas-new-commitments-on-the-south-china-sea/ 

 

Xue Li (IWEP/CASS) 

Liu Mingyi (Master Graduate of LSE, UK) 

 

The 48th ASEAN Ministerial Meetings and Related Meetings were held on August 4-6, 2015. However, Mr. Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, also accomplished two important talks on August 3. First, he met with Mr. Shang Mugen, the new foreign minister of Singapore, to coordinate the China-ASEAN dialogue relations between the two countries. Second, he called for a press conference to announce that China would pursue Five Claims on the South China Sea issue. These claims are as follows: (1) China will insist on maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, (2) China will insist on peacefully solving disputes through consultation, (3) China will insist on controlling differences through rules and regulations, (4) China will insist on maintaining freedom as well as right of navigation and overflight in the area, (5) China will insist on gaining mutual benefits through cooperation. As an observer of the South China Sea issue for many years, the important question that must be addressed is, what do these Five Claims mean?

 

First, the Five Claims are a development from and an improvement of the "Dual-Track Approach". This approach, which was announced in August 2014, was stated as follows: disputes will be solved by countries that are directly involved through friendly negotiations, and the peace and stability of the South China Sea will be maintained by China and ASEAN countries. At its core , the approach states that negotiations on the Nansha dispute can be performed under a multilateral framework, and that the ASEAN can be involved in the South China Sea issue. This significant adjustment to the South China Sea Policy is an insightful motivation to hold consultations on the norm of behavior in the South China Sea approved during the 2013 Suzhou Conference. However, countless storms have occurred around the South China Sea in 1 year, and thus, simply highlighting these two points will be insufficient. China must completely state its position.

 

Second, China insists on solving disputes through negotiations between countries that are directly involved, and opposes the hyping of disputes through multilateral activities. Consistent with the provisions of the 298th article of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS), the Chinese government submitted its written statement to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on August 25, 2006. This statement indicates that, the Chinese government does not accept any international judicial or arbitral jurisdiction stipulated in Section2, Part 15 of UNCLS for any dispute (e.g., disputes involving maritime delimitation, territory, and military activities) mentioned in Clauses 1(a), 1(b), and 1(c) if the Article 298 of UNCLS. The Five Claims reiterate the position declared and submitted by China to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in August 2006. The statement is not only a response to the Philippine Arbitration Case, but also a warning to other countries that are claiming territorial sovereignty over a certain region and following the footsteps of the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Five Claims request the involvement of countries outside the region to constructively support nations that are directly involved, and oppose behavior that is not conducive to solving disputes, such as provoking confrontations, adopting double standards, and making malicious speculations. Therefore, Mr. Wang Yi emphasized that, China would strongly maintain the general stability of the South China Sea region and would not allow any country to spoil it.

 

Third, the Five Claims show that China and the United States have overlapping interests in the South China Sea issue. The United States declares that, its interests in the South China Sea are, to maintain peace and stability in the area, to solve disputes peacefully and to uphold freedom of navigation. These three points are also reflected in the Five Claims. Therefore, the United States will find it difficult to keep up its pretenses.

 

Notably, an established difference between the positions of China and the United States is reflected mainly in the understanding of the freedom of navigation. The United States (along with Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and several developed countries, as well as the former Soviet Union) believes that the rights of the coastal states within the exclusive economic zone are limited to the economic sphere, and that the freedom of navigation of non-coastal states in the exclusive zone includes the right to conduct military activities. That is, with respect to military activities, the exclusive economic zone is the same as the open sea. The United States even coined the term "international water" to refer to the open sea and the exclusive economic zone. However, China and many developing countries believe that the right to conduct military activities in an exclusive economic zone is not included within the scope of freedom of navigation. Nevertheless, with the development of its marine power, China is gradually adjusting its position. As indicated in the Sino-Russian joint military exercises in the Mediterranean (which includes the exclusive economic zone, but not the open sea) in May, China and the United States nearly have the same position. Theoretically, the joint military exercise of the United States and the Philippines can move to an exclusive economic zone that is located 12 mi away from Hainan Island. Similarly, the Sino-Russian navy can also move to an exclusive economic zone that is located 12 mi away from the San Diego port. Naturally, to demonstrate due regard for UNCLS, powerful nations generally avoid doing such actions.

 

Finally, the Five Claims protect advocates of China and ASEAN countries. Two methods are involved in the response to South China Sea disputes: (1) expanding cooperation and increasing common interests, and (2) resolving disputes and controlling differences. China has focused on the former for a long time. However, ASEAN countries that are claiming territories have stressed the latter. During the 2013 Suzhou Conference, the position of China was expressed as follows: the norm of behavior in the South China Sea region could be negotiated, however, rational prospects should be identified to reach the agreement. Furthermore, it stated that haste should be avoided in order to succeed. The starting point should be the specific functional area in the implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to gain experience for the standard. Since the Dual-Track Approach has been presented, China has slightly changed its position. The speech of Premier Li Keqiang during the ASEAN Summit in November 2014 and the Sino-Vietnamese Joint Communiqué released during the visit of General Security Nguyen Phu Trong in April both mentioned that, we could accomplish the norm of behavior in the South China Sea region through friendly negotiations. On the one hand, the Five Claims affirm this position. On the other hand, the claims also indicate that we should continue to achieve mutually beneficial situation through cooperation.

 

In fact, during the 9th Senior Officials Meeting held in Tianjin last July, considerable progress has been achieved in the negotiation between China and ASEAN countries with regard to promoting the norm of behavior in the South China Sea. Such progress includes (1) reviewing and adopting the second consensus document in the negotiation regarding the norm of behavior in the South China Sea; (2) deciding to start a new platform to discuss important and complicated issues, including sorting out common elements to prepare the draft of the framework for the "guidelines"; and (3) formally authorizing a joint working team to discuss and develop the working method for the negotiation of the norm. Therefore, the points described below have emerged. During the 10+1 Ministerial Meetings held on August 5, Mr. Wang Yi proposed a new set of initiatives to his ASEAN counterparts to maintain peace in the South China Sea region. These initiatives are as follows:(1) the countries in the South China Sea region must effectively and completely carry out the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, accelerate the negotiation on the norm of behavior in the South China Sea region, and positively discuss preventive measures for marine risk management and control; (2) the countries outside the region must support the aforementioned efforts of the regional countries, and not to commit actions that may cause regional tension and complexity; and (3) all countries must exercise and maintain freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea area according to international laws. Subsequently, Mr. Anifah Aman, the foreign minister of Malaysia, which was the host country of the last ASEAN summit, stated in the press conference held on August 6, that the 48th ASEAN Ministerial Meetings had reached consensus on the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the acceleration of the negotiation regarding the norm of behavior in the South China Sea.

 

Notably, the United States seems to lack sensitivity with regard to this matter. On August 7, Mr. John Kerry, the Secretary of State of the United States, said in a press conference after the Ministerial Meetings that he wondered if China had stopped the reclamation of the South China Sea and appealed to all parties involved to stop reclamation, construction of new buildings, and military activities. Mr. Wang Yi had no choice but to respond, "please flying to check." Indisputably, the force intervention of the United States in the South China Sea issue has become increasingly obvious. This intervention highlights two problems in the South China Sea dispute between China and the United States: lack of strategic mutual trust and positive interaction. The United States worries about being pushed out of Asia in the future, and is afraid of existing measures. It has failed to be unbiased in its opinion about China. The United States possibly overemphasizes the South China Sea issue, because it is experiencing "overlord anxiety." However, China is aware of the difference between it and the United States. Mr. Wang Yi clearly said when he accepted the Los Angeles Times interview in June that the goal of China is to be a middle-income developing country by 2049, however, the gap between China and the United States will remain great even by that period.

 

In summary, the Five Claims fully reveal the stand of China in the South China Sea issue. These claims are the latest steps in clarifying its stand in the issue. They indicate that China does not want to extend the South China Sea dispute. After all, "One Belt and One Road" is a top level design of the new Chinese government in terms of foreign relations. ASEAN is the first hub of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The cooperation between China and ASEAN countries is a wide platform for multilateral cooperation. Some of the noises that appeared during the late stage of the Kuala Lumpur meeting series might be small ripples generated during the implementation of the Five Claims. 




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