U.S. patrols increase risk of misjudgement in South China Sea

Source: XinhuaEditor: Zhang Tao
2016-05-12 16:22

An aerial photo taken on Sept. 25, 2015 from a seaplane of Hainan Maritime Safety Administration shows cruise vessel Haixun 1103 heading to the Yacheng 13-1 drilling rig during a patrol in South China Sea.(Xinhua/Zhao Yingquan)

BEIJING, May 12 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. warship's sail-by of a South China Sea island is the country's latest military provocation and increased the risk of military misjudgment in the region.

Without permission of the Chinese government, guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence on Tuesday sailed within 12 nautical miles of Yongshu Jiao in the Nansha Islands, threatening people and property.

China deployed two navy fighter jets, one early-warning aircraft and three ships to track and warn off the destroyer.

It is the third "freedom of navigation" action by U.S. warships in recent months.

In October last year, USS Lassen entered waters near Zhubi Reef without the permission of the Chinese government and in January USS Curtis Wilbur did the same thing near the Zhongjian Dao.

It is absurd for Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban to say the operation was a direct challenge to "excessive maritime claims of some claimants in the South China Sea," and describe these claims as inconsistent with international law. How can the United States condemned China by quoting the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a treaty it refuses to recognize?

The United States only uses the UNCLOS to criticize other countries in situations when the hegemony of the U.S. armed forces conflict with the maritime rights of other countries. The only freedom in question is the United States' freedom to do as it pleases with impunity.

Article 30 of the UNCLOS states that warships must comply with the law of the coastal state concerning passage through territorial waters. If a request for compliance is made and disregarded, the coastal state may require it to leave immediately.

China in 1992 enacted the Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, stipulating that foreign military ships shall be subject to approval by the Chinese government before entering the waters.

The U.S. has breached both international and Chinese law. China's countermeasures are wholly legitimate.

U.S. escalated provocation by giving the incident a high profile, when it should rightly be viewed as endangering peace, order and security.

This could lead to misjudgment and serious consequences that will run beyond the control of existing mutual-trust mechanisms. Surely neither country wants to see this.

China-U.S. military relations still lag far behind exchanges in other fields. As a country unconnected with the South China Sea, provocative U.S. action will only make the international community further question its intentions.


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