China's illegal claims in the East Sea threaten integrity of UNCLOS
Behind China's violations is the intention to control the East Sea through promoting maritime claims that are completely contrary to the provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Located between the first and third largest oceans
in the world, with abundant resources, the East Sea plays a particularly
important role for countries in and outside the region. Therefore,
developments in the East Sea always attract the attention of the
In recent months, once again, countries inside and
outside the region have had to raise their voices against the illegal acts
that have infringed upon the legitimate rights of coastal states, increased
escalations of tensions, and threatened peace, stability, freedom, maritime
and aviation safety in this waters.
The cause of tension in the East Sea
Since July 4, 2019, China's Haiyang Dizhi 8
geological survey vessel (HD8), with the assistance of dozens of maritime,
civilian and logistic vessels, has conducted illegal survey activities on a
vast area in the south of the East Sea, which belongs to Vietnam's exclusive
economic zone and continental shelf.
The activities of HD8 group have seriously violated
Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction.
Earlier, there were reports of China’s violations to
the waters of several other coastal states along the East Sea, such as
Malaysia and the Philippines.
Behind the violations of China is the intention to
control the East Sea through the promotion of illegal maritime claims that
are completely contrary to the provisions of the UNCLOS, to which China is a
party, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration's rules in the East Sea
lawsuit, which is binding on China.
China's promotion of illegal maritime claims has
directly threatened the integrity of the UNCLOS and the maritime order that
is based on the law the international community has developed and
maintained; and has challenged the value of the UNCLOS's dispute settlement
The key interests of many countries in and outside
the region, as well as of the international community in general, have been
negatively affected; the regional and international security, safety and
freedom of navigation in the East Sea have been threatened; and efforts to
create and maintain a peaceful environment for economic development in the
region have been hampered.
China's Haiyang Dizhi 8 geological survey vessel. Photo:
Countries in and outside the region have paid great
attention to the operation of HD8 group - the source of the current
In particular, after the spokesperson of the
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry called on the international community to speak
out for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the East Sea, many
countries inside and outside the region have expressed their concerns and
opposed violations of the HD8 vessel group in Vietnam’s waters.
The phrase "serious incidents" is included in
ASEAN joint statement
Among 10 ASEAN member countries, eight are coastal
countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia,
Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia.
For these eight countries, the East Sea plays an
important role in ensuring national security and defense, maintaining a
stable and peaceful environment, and promoting economic and trade
development. The other two countries, Laos and Myanmar, are not coastal
states but reap benefits for maintaining a peaceful and stable environment
in the East Sea as well as in the region in general.
On July 31, 2019, ASEAN foreign ministers issued a
joint statement affirming the importance of international law and the 1982
UNCLOS, emphasizing the peaceful resolution of disputes in the East Sea,
calling on the parties to restrain and respect international law, including
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Thailand in
July. Photo: Kyodonews
In particular, the joint statement expressed concern
about land reclamation and “activities and serious incidents in the area,
which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions, and may
undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.
This is the first time since 2016 the phrase
"serious incidents" has been included in a joint statement of ASEAN foreign
In addition to the joint statement of the ASEAN
Foreign Ministerers' Meeting, countries in the region also expressed their
stance through separate or bilateral statements.
In a joint statement with Vietnam on August 28,
Malaysia expressed "serious concern" about the recent developments in the
East Sea and called for respect for the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the
coastal state as prescribed in the UNCLOS, and respect for diplomatic and
legal processes, thereby implicitly rejecting Beijing's claims and affirming
the value of the Permanent Court of Arbitration's rules in the East Sea
lawsuit between the Philippines and China.
Respect law-based marine order
The situation of the East Sea and the violation of
Vietnamese sovereignty of China’s HD8 vessel group have also attracted the
attention of other Asian countries, such as Australia, Japan, India and
South Korea, which have interests in maintaining peace, stability and legal
order in the waters connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
Australia has twice expressed concern about the East
Sea situation in its joint statements with Japan and the United States on
August 2 and in a joint statement with the US on August 4. The two documents
marked the first time Australia has publicly supported long-standing oil and
gas projects of the coastal states along the East Sea and objectef to the
disruption of these projects.
Japan, in addition to a joint statement with
Australia and the US on August 2, raised its voice twice on July 31 and
August 27 on the "serious situation” in the East Sea, condemning
militarizing and bullying activities, and emphasizing the need to uphold the
rule of law in the East Sea.
India also twice spoke out about the East Sea on
August 2 and August 29, affirming India's interests in the East Sea, calling
for respect for legal and diplomatic processes, and supporting legally
commercial activities that should not be obstructed in international waters
according to international law.
South Korea, on August 2, asked for respect for the
rules-based maritime order, demilitarization, maritime safety and peace in
the East Sea.