New US govt study challenges Beijing’s South China Sea claims

The report has also stated that other observers have referred to China’s approach as a strategy of grey zone operations which means operations that reside in a grey zone between peace and war….reports Asian Lite News

US State Department on Wednesday released a study on China’s South China Sea claims challenging many of Beijing’s assertions in the strategically important region.

The Department’s Limits in the Seas studies are a longstanding legal and technical series that examine national maritime claims and boundaries and assess their consistency with international law, according to the US State Department Press Release.

Earlier, the most recent study, the 150th in the Limits in the Seas series, concludes that China’s asserts unlawful maritime claims in most of the South China Sea, including an unlawful historic rights claim is unjustifiable.

Further, China builds on the Department’s 2014 analysis of the PRC’s ambiguous “dashed-line” claim in the South China Sea. Since 2014, the PRC has continued to assert claims to a wide swath of the South China Sea as well as to what the PRC has termed “internal waters” and “outlying archipelagos,” all of which are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.

With the release of this latest study, the United States calls again on the PRC to conform its maritime claims to international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, to comply with the decision of the arbitral tribunal in its award of July 12, 2016, in The South China Sea Arbitration, and to cease its unlawful and coercive activities in the South China Sea, read the US State Department press release.

In December, a Congressional Research Service report in the US had revealed a number of Chinese activities and said the recently imposed arbitrary law by Beijing is a matter of concern as it aims to dominate in East Asia particularly in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

“China’s approach to the SCS and ECS is termed usually termed by the observers as a ‘salami-slicing’ strategy that employs a series of incremental actions, none of which by itself is a casus belli, to gradually change the status quo in China’s favour,” said the report titled ‘US-China Strategic Competition in South and East China Seas: Background and Issues for Congress.

This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and was released last week. CRS serves as nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and under the direction of Congress.

The report has also stated that other observers have referred to China’s approach as a strategy of grey zone operations which means operations that reside in a grey zone between peace and war.

Beijing’s strategy also involves incrementalism, creeping annexation or creeping invasion, or as a “talk and take” strategy, meaning a strategy in which China engages in (or draws out) negotiations while taking actions to gain control of contested areas.

Perhaps more than any other set of actions, China’s island-building (aka land-reclamation) and base-construction activities at sites that it occupies in the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands in the SCS have heightened concerns among U.S. observers that China is rapidly gaining effective control of the SCS, the report said.

China’s large-scale island-building and base-construction activities in the SCS appear to have begun around December 2013 and were publicly reported starting in May 2014.

Awareness of, and concern about, the activities appears to have increased substantially following the posting of a February 2015 article showing a series of “before and after” satellite photographs of islands and reefs being changed by the work.

China occupies seven sites in the Spratly Islands. It has engaged in island-building and facilities construction activities at most or all of these sites, and particularly at three of them–Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef, all of which now feature lengthy airfields as well as substantial numbers of buildings and other structures, the report added.

The congressional report also underlined other concerning activities by Beijing as a new Chinese maritime law that China approved in April 2021 as an amendment to its 1983 maritime traffic safety law that went into effect September 1, 2021. (ANI)

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