South China Sea Current Affairs - 2019
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The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague, the Netherlands has rejected China’s claims to economic rights across large swathes of South China Sea.
Ruling in this regard was given by a five-member tribunal appointed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague in a case brought by the Philippines.
The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which both China and Philippines have signed. The ruling is binding but the tribunal has no powers for enforcement.
- There was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the South China Sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line.
- China has violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights and also caused severe harm to the coral reef environment by building artificial islands in South China Sea.
- China’s rights are incompatible with the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) provided in the UNCLOS.
- The current round of tension between Philippines and China began in 2009 after a tense stand-off over Scarborough Shoal, which led to China to gain de facto control of it in 2012.
- Philippines had lodged its suit against China at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seain 2013, saying China has violated the UNCLOS to which both countries are signatories.
- China has boycotted the tribunal ever since Philippines had filed the petition in The Hague international court.
- Earlier in 2013, China also had set up an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) over similarly disputed territory in the East China Sea.
Disputes in South China Sea
- Disputes in South China Sea are fight mainly between China, Philippines, Vietnam over the territorial sovereignty in South China Sea along with other atolls, reefs and rocky outcrops.
- China’s claim: It is saying that major portion of these islands belong to them as part of the historical events and area defined by Nine Dash Line.
- Under its claim, China already has started and even completed building artificial islands and even strategic runways for mobilising its airforce from these islands.
- China’s claim overlap the South Chia Sea areas of different claimants countries, that involve Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia.
- Importance of South China Sea: It is strategically located and major international shipping route as world’s half merchant ships passes through it.
- The sea rich in energy (reserves of natural resources around them including petroleum), mineral and fishing resources.
- India’s position: Supports freedom of navigation and flight and unimpeded commerce based on the principals of international law in South China Sea.
- Believes that states should resolve deputes through peaceful means and exercise self – restraint.
United States has fully lifted its embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam, its one-time enemy. This move of US removed a lingering vestige of the Cold War that was seen in South East Asia in 1970’s.
It was announced by US President Barack Obama during his official state visit to Vietnam and after talks with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang.
He is the third US President to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Other two Presidents were Bill Clinton (visited in 2000) and George W. Bush (2006).
US Arms embargo on Vietnam has been in place since 1984 over the human rights issue. In recent times Vietnam had been arguing for an end to this embargo, which was partially lifted in 2014.
Experts believe that US is trying to bolster its relationship with its Pacific allies, as China asserts territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. Vietnam is one of several South east Asian countries in the region involved in maritime disputes with China.