VietWill to demonstrate for UN attention on China's aggression in South China Sea

VietWill Press Release (
Berkeley, CA
18 July 2008

Vietnam assumes the president's seat at the United Nations Security Council in July 2008. This event marks a significant hope for many nations in the new world order since it means a small country like Vietnam can make certain level of impact on the outcome of international security issues. This month, Le Luong Minh being Vietnam's Ambassador to the U.N., sets the agenda to discuss for a possible U.N. sanctions against Zimbabwe and the like, and yet no mention about Vietnam's "sore," the South China Sea dispute.

It was the hope of VietWill that Vietnam would take this opportunity in which international attention is focused on it to put forth the issue of the conflict in the South China Sea, in which the Beijing government is seen to be the primary antagonist in pursuit to control the sea and the resources both proven and unproven that lies beneath Paracel and Spratly islands. However, in its first time taking the president's seat, this issue was nowhere to be seen on Vietnam's agenda.

Regretting the loss of this opportunity, VietWill sees it fit to voice its concerns this time to the world about the dangers of a Chinese hegemony in the region. At the Asia security conference in May, the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates himself cautioned Beijing on its bullying of its neighbors which he sugarcoated using the term "coercive diplomacy". Taking advantage of the weakness of the individual Southeast Asian countries and the ASEAN's disunited response toward the issue, China is slowly but surely making gains on its quest for control of the region, despite such control is neither justified by historical title nor modern international maritime law.

China forcefully seized both the Paracel and part of the Spratly Islands from Vietnam and the Philippines in recent history, as well as drawing undefined borders around virtually all of the South China Sea. The dispute involves 5 different countries in the region, but any suggestion for a fair resolution through international arbitration, such as the International Court of Justice would be squarely rejected by Beijing. At the same time, China is in a position to threaten severe negative economic and political consequences to its neighbors if they were to take a firm stand toward its aggression. Thus, China's "coercive diplomacy" euphemistically speaking, or "playground bullying", as is the case, becomes the primary method for Beijing to take grab of the land and water resources in the South China Sea at the peril of its smaller neighbors. This bullying has recently gotten more intense with the discovery of a new Chinese nuclear submarine base on the island of Hainan, right on the doorstep of the nuclear-free zone of Southeast Asia, as designated by the 1995 Bangkok Treaty signed by 10 SEA countries.

In light of a need to call for attention to China's aggression in the South China Sea and to urge for more daring and collaborative actions from affected countries, such as the ASEAN bloc, the European Union, NATO, Japan, Korea, and the United States, VietWill will hold a demonstration in front of the United Nations office in San Francisco and New York in July in order to publicize Beijing's unjustified aggression in the South China Sea.

VietWill believes that on the occasion that Vietnam, one of the countries most affected by China's "bullyism", takes the president's seat on the U.N. Security Council, it is a timely opportunity for concerned individuals and groups to bring this matter to the forefront attention so that the day that this matter makes its way onto the U.N. agenda, and even to the ICJ would be sooner rather than later.

What will Nguyen Tan Dung talk to Bush about?

By Tony Le

19 June 2008

On June 17th the White House announced that next week, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will visit the U.S. on a three day trip starting on Tuesday. Dung will come to the White House to meet with President George Bush, and the two are scheduled to discuss ways to boost cooperation in education, energy, climate change and food security, among other things.

It is unclear whether China will be mentioned in the discussion between the two leaders. However, if it doesn’t, it’s another opportunity lost as far as I am concerned because in the issue of energy, the new bully on the block is none other than Beijing. The Chinese government is doing its best to secure future energy supplies by entering into close relationships with all sorts of rogue governments in both Africa and Asia. It is trying to build up its influence over the Indian Ocean in competition with India, vying for control of the East China Sea with Japan and Korea, and outright claiming nearly all of the South China Sea and the islands in it.

It is a good sign that Nguyen Tan Dung is going to the meet Bush. Most likely there will be Vietnamese Americans who want to hold protests, as they have done with other top level visits from Vietnamese leaders in the past, because they are concerned with human rights issues and other matters in Vietnam. But they’re probably not opposed to Nguyen Tan Dung visiting the U.S. itself.

And they shouldn’t. After all, heads of states have a righ to visit each other’s countries. In this case, I just hope that the Vietnamese Prime Minister takes the opportunity to discuss with Bush about what China is doing in Asia and maybe the two governments can agree to work towards a more proactive American role in the Pacific to counter against the new aspiring superpower on the block.

Vietnam doesn’t need to be the U.S.’s next best friend in Southeast Asia. However, a strategic collaboration is not such a terrible way to go. Vietnam probably knows by now that the U.S. doesn’t necessarily want to take over the country, so it can shed these once very pronounced fears from its consciousness. And there is no shame in admitting that the U.S. still has a leadership role in the Pacific, and this role needs to be reaffirmed in light of recent developments in the Chinese military agenda.

On this trip, if Dung does not forget to include the topic of the Eastern Sea and China’s aggression in the region in the topics of discussion, then we can say that the trip was worthwhile. However, if Vietnam is slow in gathering allies on its side in the face of China’s advances in the region, and the U.S. keeps slacking off in asserting its leadership role in the Pacific, then the results will be quite unfortunate not only for Vietnam and Southeast Asia, but even for the U.S. itself.

The solution for the Spratly Islands ought to look like this

By Mark J. Valencia, Jon M. Van Dyke and Noel Ludwig
International Herald Tribune
10 October 1995

HONOLULU: China's pledge in July, at the annual meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations, that it would negotiate disputes over ownership of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea according to international law, and discuss the issue with ASEAN as a group, has set the stage for a solution.

The six claimants — China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei — start fresh talks with Indonesian officials this Tuesday to try to ease renewed tension over the disputed area, a potentially rich zone for undersea oil and natural gas.

What does international law say about possible solutions? The main guidance is provided by previous international agreements, rulings by the International Court of Justice, and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Beijing has said it will use the convention as a basis for negotiations, although of the six claimants only the Philippines and Vietnam have actually ratified it.

The precedents in international law suggest that all the claims to sovereignty over the Spratly Islands — a group of tiny islets, sand cays and reefs scattered widely over the southern sector of the South China Sea — are weak.

The historic record supporting the claims of China, Taiwan and Vietnam is incomplete and intermittent, and would probably be unconvincing to the International Court of Justice.

None of the claims to the Spratlys, including the more recent claims of Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, is supported by the requisite continuous and effective control, administration and governance.

Even if some of the sovereignty claims were to prevail, these tiny outcrops in the sea do not appear to be legally qualified to generate surrounding exclusive economic zones out to 200 nautical miles, or the even more extensive continental shelves. According to the Law of the Sea Convention, rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or an economic life of their own cannot be the basis for such zones; nor can artificial islands.

Only some 26 features in the Spratly chain are above water at high tide. The largest has a land area of less than half a square kilometer, and only six others are bigger than 0.1 square kilometer. None of them has ever sustained a permanent population. Vietnam has already taken the position that these islets should not generate extended maritime zones, and other countries in the region seem to be moving toward this view.

Even if the Spratlys were deemed to be the source of extended zones, they would not have equal weight to do so in relation to the larger land masses that surround the South China Sea. The International Court of Justice and other tribunals have consistently ruled that small islands do not play an equal role in determining maritime boundaries, and sometimes are ignored altogether.
For example, Vietnam and Malaysia have continental shelf claims extending well into the Spratly area, and these claims would be considered superior to any claims based on the islets.

If the court were asked to determine the maritime boundaries in the area, it would probably define the area in dispute, measure relevant coastlines and identify significant geographical features to be taken into account. It would develop provisional boundaries based roughly on median lines, check to see whether those lines violated "equitable principles," focusing in particular on the relative coastline lengths and relying on a rough sense of fairness to each claimant. It would then adjust the lines accordingly.

In a maritime boundary settlement following such principles and ignoring the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands in the northern part of the South China Sea (which Chinese forces seized from Vietnam in 1974), China-Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines would gain roughly equal areas.

Although most of the Macclesfield Bank southeast of the Paracels would go to China-Taiwan, it would not get any of the Spratly geologic block further to the south. The Philippines would get the northwestern portion of the Spratlys, including the Reed Bank. Malaysia would get two sizable sectors off its states of Sarawak and Sabah separated by Brunei's narrow corridor.

Sovereignty over the Spratlys themselves might be allocated based on the sector in which they are situated, or might eventually fall to the present occupants. But in either case, sovereignty would be limited because the islets would generate only a 500-meter safety zone or perhaps a territorial sea out to 12 nautical miles. The Spratlys would be demilitarized and open to access for peaceful purposes by other claimants.

If the claimants could not agree to an allocation scheme, the UN Law of the Sea Convention requires them to establish a provisional arrangement. The convention also urges cooperation in semi-enclosed seas as well as sharing of the resources in areas beyond 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones.
These principles taken together favor a dramatically different option — multilateral joint development of an agreed area.

One logical approach would be for China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei to set aside their claims for now and establish a multilateral Spratly Management Authority.

The authority would administer the contested area, which could be defined in several possible ways. Our preferred option would be to define it as the area beyond a line halfway between the coastline of the South China Sea and the disputed features in the Spratlys.

The claimant states could be given weighted voting shares in a governing council and financial responsibility in the authority in rough relationship either to their coastline lengths or the original extent of their claims. In either case, China-Taiwan would have a substantial portion of shares, benefits and costs.
Decisions would normally be made by consensus, but when voting became necessary, substantive decisions on matters affecting the entire area would be taken by a two-thirds vote of the assigned shares.

Decisions affecting a particular location might require a majority of the votes in the governing council as well as a majority of the claimants to the affected area. Nonclaimant states in the region — and perhaps concerned maritime nations outside the region — might have a voice, but not a vote, in the operation of the Spratly Management Authority.

The multilateral joint development solution to the Spratlys imbroglio should be attractive, since all claimants would be sharing in the proceeds from the exploitation of resources in and under the disputed waters. The continuing discord and threat of conflict now dominating the region are discouraging investors.

If a cooperative solution could be developed, the claimants would be working together to explore and develop oil and gas, manage fisheries and maintain environmental quality. Such cooperation would greatly reduce the chances of miscalculation and dangerous confrontation.

Other powers not involved in the Spratlys dispute, including the United States and Japan, would be highly supportive because safety and freedom of navigation would be assured through the South China Sea, which is an important maritime highway for naval and commercial shipping of many nations.

Mr. Valencia is a senior fellow in the program on international economics and politics at the East-West Center in Hawaii. Mr. Van Dyke and Mr. Ludwig are specialists on international law and resources at the University of Hawaii. They contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

China's "historic waters" in the South China Sea: an analysis from Taiwan, R.O.C.

By Yann-huei Song , Academia Sinica, Taiwan
and Peter Kien-hong Yu, National Sun Yat-sen University
American Asian Review Vol. 12, N.. 4, Winter, 1994 (pp. 83-101)

In January 1948, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) of the Republic of China (ROC) officially published a map-Nanhai zhudao weizhi tu (Map of Locations of South China Sea Islands)-on which a "U"-shaped line was drawn to enclose a large part of the waters of the South China Sea. 1 The four groups of South China Sea islands, namely, the Pratas (Dongsha), the Paracels (Xisha), the Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha), and the Spratlys (Nansha), were enclosed by the line. Because no protests or opposition were expressed by the states concerned or the international community in general after the map was published, and the legal status of the enclosed waters has never been clarified by the ROC, questions concerning the nature of this "U"-shaped boundary line continue to be raised. Particularly since the naval skirmish between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) in March 1988, questions regarding the legal status of the "U"-shaped line have been raised, with different opinions among scholars specializing in international law and politics in the ROC on Taiwan on what the line represents. 2 Recently scholars, and even government officials, from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have began to raise questions about the "U"-shaped line. 3

Given the fact that the South China Sea territorial dispute has become one of the most important security problems in the region, and that the Chinese claim to a large part of the South China Sea as its "historic waters" will have a tremendous impact on the future delimitation of maritime boundaries in the area, deepening animosity among the six claimants-the PRC, the ROC, the SRV, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei-there is an urgent need to explore the issue thoroughly.

This article will examine the legal question of Taipei's claim to the waters of the South China Sea enclosed by the "U"-shaped line as its "historic waters." After a discussion of the emergence and development of the ROC's claim, the concept and definition of historic waters will be examined. Thereafter, the nature of the "U"-shaped line and the legal status of the waters enclosed by the line will be considered. Finally, the potential impact of the ROC's claim on its relations with other Southeast Asian states will be evaluated.

The "U"-shaped Line and China's "Historic Waters"

After France reasserted claims to the Paracels in 1931 and the Spratly islands in 1933, it was generally agreed that China had to take actions to defend its sovereignty over the island groups in the South China Sea. 4 As a result, a Review Committee for Sea and Land Maps was established in June 1933. Four months later, a revised "Review Regulation for Sea and Land Maps" was issued by the Executive Yuan of the ROC. In December 1934, the Committee started to review the names of South China Sea islands in both Chinese and English. And in April 1935, the Zhongguo Nanhai gedao yu tu (Map of the Islands of the South China Sea), believed to lye the first official Chinese map of the South China Sea, was published by the governments. 5

Between 1946 and 1947, the MOI conducted a further study of the situation in the South China Sea and, based upon information collected by the Nationalist navy, published a "Cross Reference Table of the New and Old Names of the South China Sea Islands" in December 1947, listing 159 islands or islets. In January 1948, the "Map of Locations of South China Sea Islands" on which a "U"-shaped line was drawn to encircle the four larger groups of the South China Sea islands as well as their surrounding waters was officially Published and became available to the public. Since then, this "U"-shaped line has been used in Chinese maps for the purpose of showing the boundary limit of the Chinese maritime areas and the Chinese claim to the South China Sea islands. 6 The line was drawn "arbitrarily" and there was no precise delimitation of this line by coordinates. However, for over four decades, no protests were issued by neighboring countries, whose interests were involved in the area encircled by the line, or by the international community in general. Scholars, Chinese or foreign, specializing in ocean law and politics, did not examine the question either. Although occasionally mentioning that the line indicated China's claim to the islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea, no one, to our knowledge, ever raised a question concerning the line during that time. Neither the ROC nor PRC governments clarified the nature of the line or the legal status of the waters enclosed. In recent years, however, the question was raised both in Taiwan and mainland China, and by other concerned states.

About one year after the naval skirmish between the PRC and Vietnam in 1988, the ROC's MOI established an ad hoc committee to help determine the basepoints and baselines to be used for measuring the breadth of the ROC's territorial seas. At the same time, another ad hoc committee was set up to help draft the ROC's laws on the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the territorial seas.7 It was these two ad hoc committees that raised the question of "historic waters" and the legal nature of the "U"-shaped line, but committee members were divided over the issue.
One group argued that the waters encircled by the "U"-shaped line should be claimed as China's historic waters. The reasons given were twofold: First no protests or opposition were issued when the map became available to the Public in 1948; and second, the claim to the enclosed waters as historic waters did not violate Article 47 (1) of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which provides:

An archipelagic State may draw archipelagic baselines joining the outermost points of the outermost islands and drying reefs of the archipelago provided that within such baselines are included the main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between 1 to 1 and 9 to 1.

A second group opposed this position, arguing that China's historic waters claim could hardly be justified: The "U"-shaped line was drawn arbitrarily and it was impossible to locate the line at sea because of the lack of coordinates, causing difficulties in determining the legal status of the claimed waters. Also, the concept of "historic waters" was outdated and can hardly be used to support Taipei's claim." However, when the committee drafted Article 3 of the Draft Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of the ROC it adopted the view that the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line are China's "historic waters."" Moreover, in the preamble of the Guidelines for Nanhai (South China Sea) Policy, approved by the Executive Yuan in April 1993, the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line were claimed as Chinese territory, subject to the jurisdiction of the ROC." Furthermore, in September 1993, a two-day conference on the South China Sea was held in Taipei and both the Interior Minister and the Premier, during the opening ceremony, reiterated that the waters of the South China Sea have long been the ROC's historic waters. 13 Although the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line are claimed as China's historic waters, the legal status of the area remains to be clarified-are they "internal waters," "territorial sea," "archipelagic waters," or something else ?

The question regarding the legal status of the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line has not only been raised by ROC scholars, but also by scholars from the member states of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). For example, Dr. Hasjim Djalal, the former Director General of the Research and Development Agency and Indonesia's Ambassador to Germany, and Dr. B. A. Hamzah, Director General of the Malaysian Institute of Maritime Affairs (MIMA) both challenged Chinese claims at the Workshop on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea hosted by Indonesia." Hamzah argued:

There are parties which have claimed the entire South China Sea as their own on the basis of antiquity. Such claims cannot be serious nor treated with much respect . . . . By no stretch of imagination can the South China Sea be considered by any nations as its internal waters or historic lake as a basis to assert claim. Since such area claims are frivolous, unreasonable and illogical, I urge the Parties concerned to drop area claims and focus instead on their claim to islands and non-islands. I would also urge all parties to reject claims to the entire South China Sea (referring to area claims) as there is no basis in law or history.15

Given the developments outlined above, the legal status of the waters of the South China Sea encircled by the "U"shaped line and claimed by the ROC as its historic waters must be examined. Before considering the legal status of the claimed waters, it is useful to briefly introduce the legal regime of historic waters under international law.

The Concept and Definition of Historic Waters

According to the Yearbook of the Intentional Law Commission, the concept of "historic waters" :
has its root in the historic fact that States through ages claimed and maintained sovereignty over maritime areas which they considered vital to them without paying much attention to divergent and changing opinions about what general international law might prescribe with respect to the delimitation of the territorial sea. 16

Another study concluded that the doctrine of "historic waters" :

developed from that of historic bays which had emerged during the 19th century for the protection of certain large bays closely linked to the surrounding land area and traditionally considered by claiming States as part of their national territory. 17

Although the development of the concept of "historic waters" is closely related to the legal regime of historic bays, the terms "historic waters" and "historic bays" are not synonymous, "Historic waters" has a wider scope than "historic bays." Historic title can not only be applied to waters such as bays, but also to territorial seas, straits, archipelagos, and to all those waters which can generally be included in the maritime area of a coastal state .18

Although both concepts can be traced back to the 19th century, no generally accepted definitions exist for the two terms and the legal regimes of "historic bays" and "historic waters" have never been spelled out in any international conventions. In 1958, when the First UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1) was held in Geneva, the question concerning the meaning of the terms "historic bays" and "historic waters" was raised by the delegations from Japan, Panama, and India, as well as others. However, mainly because the participants generally believed that the Conference had neither sufficient material nor time to deal with the problem properly, the UNCLOS I ended by adopting a resolution requesting the UN to arrange for the study of the legal regime of "historic waters," including "historic bays." Although the UNCLOS I decided not to address the question concerning the definition of the two terms, it inserted safeguard provisions in the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone adopted in the Conference, thereby recognizing the legitimacy of both "historic waters" and "historic bays."
In 1962, the UN Secretariat published a study, entitled "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters, Including Historic Bays" in Yearbook of the International Law Commission. 19 The study cited the Fisheries Case between the United Kingdom and Norway to support the theory that "historic waters" are not limited to bays. The study suggested that title to "historic waters" should be considered independently on its own merits and when the theory of "historic waters" is considered, "one should avoid . . . bas[ing] any proposed principles or rules on the alleged exceptional character of such waters." 'the study also examined the elements of title to "historic waters," the issues of burden of proof, the legal status of waters regarded as "historic waters," and the settlement of disputes. However, it points out that, although the discussion of the principles and rules of international law relating to the legal regime seems to justify a number of conclusions, some of the conclusions are "highly tentative and more in the nature of bases of discussion than results of an exhaustive investigation of the matter. 1121, Regrettably, the International Law Commission (ILC) did not pursue the question of the legal regime of "historic waters" or "historic bays."

During the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 111) from 1973 to 1982, a "draft article concerning territorial sea: bays, the coasts of which belong to a single state, historic bays or other historic waters" was proposed by Colombia .21 However, the legal regimes of "historic waters" and "historic bays" were not considered during the Conference. There are two possible reasons for this. First, the twelve-mile territorial sea limit had generally been accepted by most coastal states, which made it possible to place the waters concerned under a state's sovereignty and jurisdiction. Second, the development of the legal regimes of the continental shelf, EEZ, and archipelagic waters may bring about a gradual phasing out and eventual elimination of the phenomenon of "historic" claims.22 As a consequence, the UNCLOS III merely reproduced the relevant articles of the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone without defining the term "historic waters." Thus, no authoritative definition of "historic waters" can be found in any convention.

One scholar defined the term "historic waters" in his study of the legal regime of bays in international law, published in 1964, as:

waters over which the Coastal State, contrary to the generally applicable rules of international law, clearly, effectively, continuously, and over a substantial period of time, exercise sovereign rights with the acquiescence of the community of States.23

Another scholar classified claims to "historic waters" into three categories: 1) bays claimed by States which are greater in extent, or less in configuration, than standard bays; 2) areas of claimed waters linked to a coast by offshore features but which are not enclosed under the standard rules; and 3) areas of claimed seas which would, but for the claim, be high seas because they are not covered by any rules specially concerned with bays or delimitation of coastal waters (maria clausa). 24. Examples of the first category of "historic waters" claim include Libya's claim to the Gulf of Sidra as its "historic bay" in 1974. The closing line of the Gulf of Sidra is 296 miles in length, but the generally accepted length of the closing of a bay is 24 miles. Another example is the Russian claim to Peter the Great Bay as its "historic bay." The length of the closing line is 108 miles. Libya's claim has been challenged by countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union. The Russian claim has been challenged by the United Kingdom, France, Japan, the United States, Sweden, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Examples of the second category of "historic waters" claim include Canada's claim to the waters of its Arctic archipelago. Tonga's claim to a rectangle of sea that the several groups of its islands frame as its "historic waters" is the best example of the third category of "historic waters". 25 In 1960, it was proposed that the ILC invite all the member states of the UN to send to the Secretariat documentation relating to "historic waters," including "historic bays," under each state's jurisdiction, and indicate the legal regime that supported the claims. However, the proposal was rejected out of fear that:

if Governments were invited to specify their claims to historic waters they might be tempted, as a matter of prudence, to protect their position by advancing all their claims, including possibly some new ones. They might also thereby commit themselves to a rigid attitude which could make a solution of the problem more difficult in the future. Furthermore, possibly exaggerated claims would not be a suitable basis for the formulation of principles on the matter. 26

In the study prepared by the UN Secretariat, the idea of including a list of "historic waters" was also considered, but, again, due to the concern that "such a list might induce States to overstate both their claims and their opposition to the claims of other States, and so give rise to unnecessary disputes," the idea was rejected." Therefore, it is difficult to tell precisely how many "historic waters" claims there are. Moreover, it is also difficult to examine the claimant states' justification of their claims or the basis for opposition to the claims by other states.

The Legal Status of the Waters Enclosed by the "U"-shaped Line

The 1962 study of the juridical regime of historic waters concluded that the legal status of waters regarded as historic waters "would in principle depend on whether the sovereignty exercised in the particular case over the area by the claiming state and forming a basis for the claim, was sovereignty over internal waters or sovereignty over the territorial sea."" In other words, depending on the sovereignty exercised over the claimed waters by the claimant state, the waters could be considered either internal waters or territorial sea. In 1982, in the Tunisia-Libya Continental Shelf Case, the International Court of Justice concluded that "general international law ... does not provide for a single 'regime' for 'historic waters' or 'historic bays,' but only for a particular regime for each of the concrete, recognized cases of 'historic waters' or 'historic bays" 29 However, it must be pointed out that the exercise of sovereignty over the claimed waters by a claimant state is only one of the elements in determining whether the historic title had been established. Other requirements also must be met to establish the historic title to the claimed waters.

During the UNCLOS 1, Japan proposed that "historic bays" be defined as "those bays over which coastal State or States have effectively exercised sovereign rights continuously for a period of long standing with explicit or implicit recognition of such practice by foreign States." The 1962 UN Study also suggested that at least three factors must be taken into consideration in determining whether a state has acquired a historic title to a maritime area. These factors are: 1) the exercise of authority over the area by the state claiming the historic right; 2) the continuity of this exercise of authority; and 3) the attitude of foreign states." In 1976, Colombia proposed a draft article to the Second Committee of the UNCLOS III, in which paragraph 1 reads:

A bay shall be regarded as historic only if it satisfies all of the following requirements: (a) that the State or States which claim it to be such shall have clearly stated that claim and shall be able to demonstrate that they have had sole possession of the waters of that bay continuously, peaceably and for a long time, by mean of acts of sovereignty or jurisdiction in the form of repeated and continuous official regulations on the passage of ships, fishing and other activities of the nationals or ships of other states; (b) that such practice is expressly or tacitly accepted by third States, particularly neighboring States. 32

Based upon the above arguments, it can be concluded that the general requirements for establishing historic title to a specific maritime area include: 1) exercise of authority over the area claimed; 2) continuity of the exercise of authority; and 3) the attitude of foreign states. In addition to these requirements, the burden of proof rests on the state which claims historic title to the questioned waters.

As already mentioned, Taipei claims the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line are China's historic waters but the legal status of the claimed waters has yet to be clarified by the ROC government. If the waters are claimed as internal waters, Taipei must prove that it has been continuously exercising sovereignty over the waters encircled by the "U"-shaped line for a considerable period of time in the same way it exercises sovereignty over other internal waters. If the waters are claimed as territorial sea, it must show that it has been continuously exercising sovereignty over the encircled waters for a long period of time in the same way it exercises sovereignty over other territorial seas. The same principles apply if the encircled waters are claimed as historic archipelagic waters.

Under the legal regime of "internal waters," a coastal state exercises full sovereignty over those waters which lie on the landward side of the baseline from which the breadth of its territorial sea is measured and foreign ships enjoy no right of innocent passage through a state's internal waters, unless granted by the state as a privilege. A state's lakes, canals, rivers, ports, and harbors have exactly the same status as "inland waters."33

Should the waters of the South China Sea encircled by the "U"-shaped line and claimed as China's historic waters have the legal status of "internal waters"? First, the ROC government has never claimed the waters of the South China Sea enclosed by the "U'-shaped line are "internal waters." Moreover, foreign vessels, including warships, have continuously and freely navigated the waters of the South China Sea enclosed by the line since the map was published by the ROC in 1948. No action by the ROC has ever been taken to protest foreign vessels' passage through the enclosed waters. Considering these two reasons, it seems safe to conclude that the answer to the question is "no."

Article 3 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that "every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention." Every state exercises sovereignty over its territorial sea and the only right which foreign ships enjoy in a state's territorial sea, apart from any specific treaty provisions which may exist, is the right of innocent passage. Foreign aircraft enjoy no right of innocent passage through the air space above the territorial sea. Can the waters of the South China Sea encircled by the "U"-shaped line be considered China's "territorial sea"?

First, foreign aircraft have been overlying the encircled waters since 1948 when the map was published. And foreign ships also have been enjoying freedom of navigation in the waters encircled by the "U"-shaped line, perhaps except in those waters measured 12 nautical miles from the baselines of those islands occupied by Taiwan.

Second, the Presidential Decree concerning the Territorial Sea and the EEZ, issued on October 8, 1979 defines the extent of the ROC's territorial sea as twelve nautical miles from its baselines. Although the islands and waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line were not mentioned in the Decree, as a corollary, it can be surmised that the ROC's territorial sea in the South China Sea is measured 12 nautical miles from the baselines of the claimed islands.

On October 7, 1992, the ROC's Ministry of Defense declared that foreign aircraft and ships are prohibited from entering into the waters and airspace above the waters measured 6,000 meters from the shorelines of the Pratas (Dongsha) and Taiping (Itu Aba) Island .34 These points demonstrate that the legal status of the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line, except those within 12 nautical miles from the baselines around the occupied islands, are not territorial sea. The concept of "archipelagic waters" is a new one in international law of the sea, created in the UNCLOS Ill. The waters enclosed by straight archipelagic baselines are archipelagic waters, which are neither internal waters nor territorial sea. An archipelagic state exercises sovereignty over its archipelagic waters. The sovereignty "extends to the air space over the archipelagic waters, as well as to their bed and subsoil and the resources contained therein." 35 However, foreign ships and aircraft enjoy the right of innocent passage through archipelagic sealanes and air routes over archipelagic waters. 36 Due to the fact that the legal regime of "archipelagic waters" was developed during the UNCLOS III and that the Chinese map enclosing the South China Sea with a "U"shaped line was published in 1948, it can hardly be argued that the area has the legal status of archipelagic waters. As it stands, the ROC has never had complete sovereignty over all the resources contained in the waters enclosed by the line, including the sea bed and subsoil. Furthermore, foreign ships and aircraft have enjoyed freedom of navigation and overflight, instead of the right of innocent passage or the right of archipelagic sea lanes or air route passage.

Since the ROC has never continuously exercised sovereignty over the waters of the South China Sea as internal waters, territorial sea, or archipelagic waters, it is safe to conclude that a historic title has not been established. The ROC has failed to meet the requirements that determine whether a historic title to a maritime area has been established. Moreover, the ROC government never asserted an official claim to the enclosed waters as historic waters prior to 1990. Therefore, the states whose interests would be affected by the claim need not respond nor take action to invalidate the ROC's claims.

If no historic title has ever been established, what is the purpose of the "U"-shaped line? It could simply be a boundary reference line, indicating that the islands of the South China Sea enclosed within the line belong to China. This is the conclusion of Steven K.T. Yu who argues that the purpose of drawing the "U"-shaped line was to show the public that the four large groups of islands in the South China Sea belong to China. 37 Likewise, Hungdah Chin uses the same argument and concludes that China can hardly establish a historic title to the waters enclosed by the line, given the fact that the ROC government has never made such claims and the ROC delegation to the UNCLOS I was silent on the matter .38

If the ROC's claim to the waters enclosed by the "U"shaped line as historic waters is ill-founded, what about the PRC's claim? Has the PRC ever claimed the waters of the South China Sea as China's "historic waters"? The answer to this appears to be "no." Although the "U"-shaped line is also used on maps published in the PRC, Beijing has never claimed the waters enclosed in the line as historic waters, even during the UNCLOS III. In practice, the PRC has never protested the exercise of the right of innocent passage and overflight of foreign ships and aircraft through the area, However, it must be pointed out that the PRC has continuously claimed ownership over the South China Sea islands since 1951. 39 Ownership of these islands will entitle Beijing to claim a variety of maritime zones in the South China Sea, which include internal waters, territorial seas, contiguous zones, continental shelf, and EEZs.


ROC's current position on the waters of the South China Sea enclosed by the "U"-shaped line is not acceptable to the other states involved in the South China Sea islands disputes, or to other states that make no claim to the South China Sea islands but whose interests are affected. The ROC would have difficulty proving that it has continuously exercised sovereignty over the enclosed waters since 1948 when the line was drawn and published. Or in other words, it will be very difficult for the ROC to establish a historic title to the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line, unless different criteria than those discussed above can be cited by the ROC in support of the claim.

The key issue in the dispute is not claims to "historic waters," but rather ownership of South China Sea Islands. In September 1958, the PRC declared that the breath of its territorial sea is twelve nautical miles and that this applies to the Dongsha, Xisha, Zhongsha, and Nansha Islands as well. 40 On February 25, 1992, the National People's Congress adopted the Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of the PRC, in which the PRC's baseline for designating the territorial sea is determined with the method of straight baselines, formed by joining the various base points with straight lines. 41 The method is also applied to the South China Sea islands claimed by the PRC. According to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, waters on the landward side of the baseline are part of the internal waters of the state. Accordingly, a large part of the waters of the South China Sea will become China's internal waters, subject to its sovereignty if Beijing chooses to enforce the law. Other countries will enjoy no rights at all, except the right of innocent passage. Moreover, areas 24 miles and 200 miles measured from the baselines will respectively become the PRC's contiguous zone and EEZ. If this becomes the case, the maritime areas subject to the PRC's sovereignty and jurisdiction will be enlarged to a point, even larger perhaps than the waters enclosed by the "U"-shaped line.

This could be one reason why Beijing has been silent on the question of "historic waters." Strategically speaking, there is no need for the PRC to play the role of "bad guy" when the ROC has already assumed the role. In Taiwan, among the Chinese scholars specializing in ocean law and politics, there is no consensus regarding the policy of claiming the enclosed waters as the ROC's historic waters. Moreover, diplomatically, it is quite likely that the ROC's claim will serve as an obstacle to Taiwan's "southward policy," of developing closer economic relations with Southeast Asian nations. 42 Due to the fact that no Southeast Asian nations formally recognize the ROC, and the real concern of the states in the region is the PRC, it is not likely that the ROC's claim that the South China Sea enclosed by the "U"-shaped line is China's "historical waters" will have much impact on the future development of the South China Sea islands dispute. But such a claim will hamper relations between Taipei and other Southeast Asian capitals. The real stumbling block to a peaceful solution of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea is the question of ownership, in whole or in part, of the South China Sea islands. In short, the question of China's claim to "historic waters" only complicates the effort to settle the dispute.


Yann-huei Song (LL.M., University of California Law School, Ph.D., Kent State University) teaches at the Institute of the Law of the Sea, National Taiwan Ocean University and is a research fellow at the Academia Sinica in Taipei. His research interests are the law of the sea and national ocean policy.
Peter Kien-hong Yu (Ph.D., New York University) teaches political science at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He has published more than 30 articles and is the editor of Chinese Regionalism (Westview Press, 1994).
1 See Tzoh-zhou Yang, Nanhai fonyun [The South China Sea Imbroglio] (Taipei: Zhenzhong Publishers, 1993), 910. The "U"-shaped line is also shown on the maps included in the following publications: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Vietnam, White Paper on the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands (Saigon, 1975), 90; Marwyn S. Samuels, Contest for the South China Sea (New York and London, Methuen, 1982), 195; David G. Muller, Jr., China as a Maritime Power (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1983), 79; Jon M. Van Dyke and Dale L. Bennett, "Islands and the Delimitation of Ocean Space in the South China Sea." in Ocean Yearbook 10, ed. Elizabeth Mann Borgese, et al. (Chicago: the University of Chicago Press, 1993), 55. See also Peter Kien-hong Yu, "Issues on the South China Sea," Chinese Yearbook on International Law and Affairs (1991-1992), 138-200.
2 Hurng-yu Chen, "The Boundary of the South China Sea Should be Drawn by Coordinates," Central Daily News (Taipei) (July 26, 1992):2.
3 See Kuan-chen Fu, "Nanhai "U"-shaped Boundary Line and the Unique Nature of the Waters within the Line," United Daily News (Taipei) (June 2, 1993):11.
4 See Choon-ho Park, "The South China Sea Disputes: Who Owns the Islands and the Natural Resources," Ocean Development and International Law Journal 5, no. I (1 978):33 and Kuen-chen Fu, A Study of the Legal Status of the ROC's Historical Waters (Taipei: The Evaluation Commission, May 1993), 1.
5 See Han Jen Hua, ed., A Compilation of Historic Documents and Materials Relating to the South China Sea Islands (Beijing: Dong Fang Publishers, 1985), 172-179; Fu, A Study of the Legal Status of the ROC's Historical Waters.
6 The question of the exact purpose of the "U"-shape is unknown. The person who helped draw the line is reported to still be living in Nanjing, China. If the person is found, the question of why the line was drawn in such a way may be answered. See also Fu, A Study of the Legal Status of the ROC's Historical Waters.
7 See Nien-Tsu Alfred Hu, "The 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention: Current Problems and Issues to the Republic of China," paper presented at "The Law of the Sea Convention: Issues and Prospects" sponsored by Southeast Asian Program on Ocean Law, Policy and Management (SEAPOL), Chiang Mai, Thailand, May 1991, 8.
8 See Kuan-chen Fu's statement in Wenti yu yanjiu [issues and Studies] 32, no. 8 (August 1993):6.
9 See International Legal Materials 21 (1982):1261-1354.
10 Chen, "The Boundary of the South China Sea Should be Drawn by Coordinates".
11 Hurng-yu Chen, "A Comparative Study of the South China Sea Policy and Thinking of the Two Sides of the Taiwan Strait," paper presented at the symposium on Asian-Pacific Strategic Situation and Prospective, the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, Tamkang University, Taipei, Taiwan, May 18-19,1993, 11.
12 United Daily News (Taipei) (April 12, 1993): 1.
13 United Daily News (Taipei) (September 7, 1993):l.
14 Fu, A Study of the Legal Status of the ROC's Historical Waters, 3-4.
15 B.A. Hamzah, "Conflicting Jurisdiction Problems in the Spratlys: Scope for Conflict Resolution," paper presented to the Second Workshop on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea, Bandung, Indonesia, 15-18 July 1991, 199-200.
16 See "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters, Including Historic Bays," Yearbook of the International Law Commission Vol. 11 1962, 6-7.
17 Donat Pharand, Canada's Arctic Waters in International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 91.
18 See "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters, Including Historic Bays," Yearbook of the International Law Commission Vol. 11 1962, 6. See also D.P. O'Connell, The International Law of the Sea Vol. 1, ed. I.A. Shearer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 419.
19 R.R. Churchill and A. V. Lowe, The Law of the Sea 2nd ed., (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 36.
20 "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters, Including Historic Bays," Yearbook of the Intentional Law Commission Vol. 11, 1962, 6 and 25.
21 See Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Official Records, Vol. V, 202-203.
22 Yehuda Z. Blum, "Current Developments: the Gulf of Sidra Incident," The American Journal of International Law 80 (1986):677.
23 L.H. Bouchez, The Regime of Bays in international Law (the Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964), 281.
24 D.P. O'Connell, The Intentional Law of the Sea Vol. 1, 417-418.
25 See Churchill and Lowe, The Law of the Sea. 37-38; O'Connel, International Law of the Sea, Vol. 1, 410, 418; Pharand, Canada's Arctic Waters in International Law, 107, 113-32.
26 "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters," 5.
27 "The Juridical Regime of Historic Waters," 26.
28 "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters," 25.
29 Churchill and Lowe, The Law of the Sea, 36.
30 "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters," 3.
31 "Juridical Regime of Historic Waters," 13.
32 The Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Official Records, Vol. V, 203.
33 For provisions relating to "internal waters" see Article 5(l) of the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone and Articles 8, 9, 10, 11, and 50 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
34 United Daily News (Taipei) (October 14, 1992):l.
35 See Article 49 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
36 See Article 53 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
37 Steven K.T. Yu, "on the Legal Status of ROC's Nanhai U-shaped Line: Based Upon the Regime of 'Historic Waters'," Lilun yu zhengee Theory and Policy] 8, no. 1 (November 1993): 96.
38 Hungdah Chiu, "The Legal Regime of our Nanhai Historic Waters," Wenti yu Yanjiu [Issues & Studies] 32, no. 8 (August 1993):23.
39 In 1951, Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai pointed out that the South China Sea Islands have always been China's territory. See Lou Yuru and Zeng Chengkui, eds., Dangdai Zhonqquo De Haiyang Shiye [contemporary China's Marine Undertakings] (Beijing: Chinese Social Science Press, 1985), 446.
40 See Myron H. Nordquist and Choon-ho Park, North America and Asia-Pacific and the Development of the Law of the Sea: The People's Republic of China (New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1981), 6.
41 Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, the UN, The Law of the Sea Bulletin, no. 21 (August 1992), 24-27.42 United Daily News (Taipei) (November 13, 1993):l and (November 24, 1993):2.

The Cow Tongue: China's Claims in the Eastern Sea (South China Sea)

By Tony Le

In 1947 the Chinese Nationalist Government issued a map on which 11 dotted lines circumscribed nearly all the Eastern Sea (South China Sea). This evolved into the 9-dotted line map in 1953. According to cartographic convention, this meant China claimed sovereignty over all the islands enclosed within those dotted lines. In 1974 China’s navy invaded the Paracel Islands under Vietnamese sovereignty and has illegally occupied the islands until the present.

Despite China’s claims of ownership over the Spratly Islands, it never physically occupied this archipelago until 1988 when its navy clashed with Vietnam’s navy and took control of 6 of the features for the first time in history. China continued to take over more features in subsequent clashes with Vietnam in 1992 and the Philippines in 1995.

Despite only actually occupying a number of features in the Spratlys, in 1992 the Chinese National People’s Congress passed a “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone,” in which it claimed all islands in the Spratlys (and most of the rest of the Eastern Sea) as Chinese territory.

As mentioned earlier, China issued its dotted line maps claiming both land and "historic water" terrritories in the Eastern Sea giving it the whole sea up to a line ranging roughly 15 to 200 nautical miles from the coasts of the others. It is from this map that the boundaries around the claimed territories has the shape that reminds one of a “Cow Tongue”.

In 1996 Beijing established baselines completely around the Paracel Islands in a manner that would make the Paracel Islands equivalent to an archipelagic nation. China claimed the Paracels as a Chinese archipelago, with rights to all resources both within the baseline and reaching outward from it toward an exclusive economic zone that it refused to state definitely what that extent is. China further claimed that waters within the baselines were “internal waters.” This is equivalent to asserting that all waters within the baselines are “the good earth” and that neither transit nor innocent passage by foreign vessels would be permitted. At the time Beijing declared it “will announce the remaining baselines of the territorial sea of the People’s Republic of China at another time” implying that it would take the same action in the Spratlys as it did in the Paracels at a time when China was in a military position to do so effectively.

In 2007, Beijing announced that it had established the administrative city of Sansha to govern the three archipelagos that it laid claims to in the Eastern Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

As it stands today, China’s claims in the Eastern Sea, among which are the Paracel and Spratly Islands, and territorial waters add up to approximately 80 percent of the area of this region, including 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones around the various islands.

China says this claim of EEZ is based on the 1982 UNCLOS. But in fact, UNCLOS does not say that any island can claim 200 miles. UNCLOS says that 12 miles can be claimed for small islands that don’t have local population and economic life. This is the case with virtually all the islands being disputed on the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. It is obvious that China’s claim of 200 miles is pure greed stemming from its humongous appetite for cotrol of the region and its resources, and not at all founded on UNCLOS.

UNCLOS stipulates that when there are overlapping claims present, a fair resolution must be reached by the claimants. Yet, China thinks that it can take little tiny islands and claim as much of the sea as the coastline of a country, notwithstanding that China’s claims of sovereignty over these islands are not at all well-founded. China knows that it is not fair, that is why it consistently refused to settle the matter in International Court because it knows that it stands little chance of convincing anyone of its claims. Instead China prefers bilateral negotiations as a way to easily assert its influence on individual parties. And if diplomatic pressure does not work, China can always resort to its 094 nuclear submarines that it has put into its newly built secret nuclear naval base in Sanya, Hainan to send the message to its neighbors to remind them who’s the boss. History has indeed shown that Beijing is not at all unwilling to flex its military muscles when its words alone is not enough to achieve the desired goals. And regular military exercises along with a formidable military buildup taking place in the region forewarns of what might come about if the Big Brother doesn't get his way.

China says Google must show Spratly and Paracel Islands belong to China

By Tony Le
6 May 2008

Beijing is at it again, this time with Google. According to a news report by AFP today, the Chinese government is investigating online mapping sites that may expose state secrets or compromise its so called territorial integrity. China doesn't want Internet maps to be showing where China's military bases are located or where its army is stationed.

Beijing is also quite concerned about online maps that show various disputed territories as not belonging to China, for example, the Paracel and Spratly Islands in Vietnam's Eastern Sea, or the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. It also wants Taiwan to be indicated as part of Chinese territory.

Not only Google, but online Chinese mapping sites Sohu and Baidu are being investigated as well. It will come as no surprise if Sohu and Baidu correct their "errors" if there happens to be any. However, it will be of great interest to the parties in the territorial disputes to see whether Google will submit to Beijing's pressure for the sake of its business interests in the gargantuan market that is China.

Of great particular concern for Vietnamese people are the Paracel Islands which China illegally seized from Vietnam in 1974, and part of the Spratly Islands which China also took control from Vietnam after a military invasion in 1988.

Presently, searching the Google maps site reveals that the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands are labeled by their English names. There are no Chinese or Vietnamese names added to the English label, unlike other undisputed Chinese territories that have both the English script and the Chinese script underneath.

Undoubtedly, Beijing would like Google maps to indicate these islands as Xisha and Nansha (with Chinese characters included) on the map. If it judges that the present way that Google labels these archipelasgos as "illegal" and "damanging" to Chinese territorial integrity, perhaps it will decide to ban Google in China as it has done in other instances with Youtube and Google itself in 2002.

Beijing’s bullyism now shows itself in myriad ways -- taking all the festivity out of the Olympics torch relay, building a secret nuclear submarine base in Hainan Island along with an ominous military build up, and threatening actions against even the big Internet giant Google so that it can get its own way. As China continues to climb up the superpower ladder rung by rung, we can be sure that Beijing will not cease to come up with even more ingenious ways to make its ambitions a reality.

News story link

China to investigate Google for illegal maps: official media

6 May 2008

BEIJING (AFP) — China has launched an investigation into online mapping services by Internet giants including Google and Sohu in an effort to protect state secrets and territorial integrity, state press said.

According to Min Yiren, vice head of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, authorities hope to get rid of online maps that wrongly depict China's borders or that reveal military secrets, the People's Daily said Monday.

The government began the investigation into the problematic maps in April and will continue it until the end of the year, the report said.

Min cited five areas of concern, with the redrawing of China's borders and placing disputed territory outside the nation the top priority, it said. Such areas of dispute include Taiwan, the Spratlys and Paracels island chains in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, it said.

Previous reports, citing Min, said that there were nearly 10,000 illegal map websites in China. The People's Daily named US Internet giant Google, as well as China's Sohu and Baidu, as being under investigation.

The report was seen as the first time the government media had named specific companies as possible offenders. Eight ministries including the mapping bureau, the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Public Safety are involved in the investigation, it said.

Last year, China restricted mapping and survey activity by foreign entities for national security reasons.

China's military buildup in the South China Sea

China shrugs off report of tropical nuclear sub base

BEIJING, May 6 (Reuters) - China refused to be drawn on Tuesday on a photograph which Jane's Information Group analysts believe is evidence of a new underground nuclear submarine base off the southern tropical island of Hainan.

China's increasing dependence on imported petroleum and mineral resources had contributed to an intensified Chinese concern about defending its access to vital sea lanes, particularly to its south, Jane's said.

It said high-resolution commercially available satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe was independent verification of previous suggestions that China is constructing an underground nuclear submarine base near Sanya on Hainan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang would neither confirm nor deny the report.

"China is going down the road of peaceful development. China's national defence policy is defensive. Other countries have no reason to fear, or make a fuss about it and be prickly," Qin told a regular news conference.

"We have vast coastal areas and territorial seas. Protecting our national security on the seas, protecting our sovereignty on the oceans and our oceanic rights are the sacred responsibilities of our armed forces."

The extent of construction indicated the Sanya base, known as Yulin, could become a key future base for People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) aircraft carriers and other ships, Jane's said.

The base and the positioning of China's most advanced sub-surface "combatants" at Sanya would have implications for China's control of the South China Sea and the strategically vital straits in the area, Jane's said.

The satellite image suggested the base had been supported by a gradual military build-up in the Paracel islands over the last 20 years and the transformation of the Chinese-held islands in the disputed Spratly chain into assets that could support a range of military operations, it said.

China had pursued the build-up at Sanya with little fanfare, offering no public explanations regarding its plan to base nuclear weapons or advanced naval platforms there, Jane's said.

Bangkok-based Western military expert Robert Karniol said China had at least one other nuclear naval base in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Nick Macfie)

China defends maritime rights, but silent on nuclear sub base report

Agence France-Presse
6 May 2008

BEIJING - China on Tuesday refused to comment directly on reports it was building a major underground nuclear submarine base, but defended its right to protect its maritime and territorial interests.

"We have a vast territorial sea, and it is the sacred duty of the Chinese army to safeguard our security on the sea, the sovereignty of our territorial waters, and maritime rights and interests," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters on Tuesday.

He was responding to questions about a report by Jane's Intelligence Review, a respected defense periodical, on Friday that said China was building the base near the holiday resort of Sanya on southern China's Hainan island.

Jane's reported it had confirmed the existence of the base through satellite images.

It said China's plans raised regional and global security concerns, partly because the vessels would be stationed so close to Southeast Asia's sea lanes.

Qin would not confirm nor deny the existence of the base, but insisted that China's military posed no threat to the world.

"There is no need for the Western countries to be worried, or concerned, or make any irresponsible accusations," Qin said.

"China's national defense and military building will not pose a threat to any countries."

Jane's said the base could mean China was preparing to house a large proportion of its nuclear forces, and even operate them from there, which could cause concern to regional powers and others further afield.

The positioning of China's most advanced underwater combatants at Sanya could have implications for China's control of the South China Sea and the strategically vital straits in the area, said Jane's.

"For both regional and extra-regional powers, it will be difficult to ignore that China is now building a major naval base at Sanya and may be preparing to house and protect a large proportion of its nuclear forces here and even operate them from this base," the group said.

"This development so close to the Southeast Asian sea lanes so vital to the economies of Asia can only cause concern far beyond these straits."

Britain's Daily Telegraph also reported on the base and called it a "vast, James Bond-style edifice capable of concealing up to 20 nuclear-powered submarines, which will enable China to project its power across the region."

China's naval secrets

By Richard D. Fisher, Jr.
Wall Street Journal Asia
5 May 2008

Experts attempting to understand the strategic aims behind China's aggressive military expansion have generally focused on Taiwan. But a new naval base points at Beijing's significant and growing interest in projecting power into waters far from the Taiwan Strait. China, in fact, is equipping itself to assert its longstanding and expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, and this plan could raise tensions well beyond the region.

The new base is near Sanya, a city on the southern tip of Hainan Island. It's an ideal place for a naval base, and a significant expansion compared to the nearby naval base in the port city of Yulin. Sanya features much larger piers for hosting a large fleet of surface warships, a new underground base for submarines and comfortable facilities that would attract technically proficient soldiers and sailors. Its location will allow China to exert greater dominance over disputed territories of the South China Sea; to place a much larger naval force closer to sea lanes crucial to Asia's commercial lifeblood; and to exercise influence over the critical Straits of Malacca.

While construction of this new base has only recently been visible via commercial satellite imagery, since 2002 military and security officials in three Asian governments have conveyed to this analyst details, and at times concerns, about China's construction of a major naval base at Sanya. It's not just a matter of the base's existence, but of what Beijing appears to intend to do with it. Officials in two of these governments have pointed to a unique feature of this base: a large new underground facility designed to house nuclear and non-nuclear submarines. In a conversation at an academic confernece in late 2004, a general in China's People's Liberation Army admitted that Beijing was building a new base on Hainan, but denied there was an underground facility.

New high-resolution satellite imagery, however, appears to belie the general's statement. Acquired by Jane's Information Group from satellites of the DigitalGlobe Corporation, this commercially available imagery shows cave openings around the Sanya base consistent with another known PLA underground submarine base in Jianggezhuang near the Bohai Gulf. Other openings on the opposite side may have facilitated excavation or could serve as weapon- or supply storage areas. The size of the underground submarine facility is unknown, although one Asian military source has suggested it will hold at least eight submarines. There is space in this area for a supported underground structure that could house more than 20 subs.

Sanya will prove crucial to China's strategic nuclear and power projection ambitions. The Bohai Gulf in the north of the country, the location for the base of the first PLA nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), is too shallow to support nuclear deterrent patrols. But with the opening of the Sanya base, China's new Type 094 SSBNs can soon find safer 5,000-meter-deep operating areas south of Hainan Island.

The Pentagon projects that the PLA will build five Type 094 SSBNs. Should the submarine-launched ballistic missiles on these submarines contain multiple warheads, as some Asian military sources suggest, the SSBN fleet based at Sanya could eventually house up to half of the PLA's total nuclear missile warheads.

As such, China is going to invest in the facilities and forces needed to defend these vital strategic assets. Sanya has piers necessary to base a far larger force of surface warships, a new large pier, and many new housing and headquarters buildings in this attractive resort area. Both to protect its SSBNs and to defend China's growing interest in securing sea lanes to critical resources in distant areas like Africa, the Persian Gulf and Australia, Sanya can be expected to host future Chinese aircraft carrier battle groups and naval amphibious projection groups. Some Chinese sources suggest that the PLA could eventually build four to six aircraft carriers.

This concentration of strategic naval forces at Sanya will likely heighten China's longstanding desire to consolidate its control over the South China Sea. In 1974, 1988 and 1995, China used military force to capture Vietnamese- and Philippine-controlled or claimed islands and reefs. Its most recent acquisition, Mischief Reef, located about 200 kilometers off the Philippine island of Palawan, now contains two large concrete structures. The PLA appears to have a constant ship presence in this reef, which is very close to one of Asia's key maritime superhighways.

Now Beijing also has the Sanya base at its disposal. And sure enough, in mid-November 2007, the PLA held major naval and air exercises south of Hainan near the disputed Paracel Islands, prompting protests from Vietnam. Either in conjunction with this exercise or soon after, the first Type 094 SSBN moved to Sanya, where it is today -- as caputured by DigitalGlobe satellite images. The implication is clear: Sanya will serve as a base from which to assert China's dominance in the crowded South China Sea.

China and the U.S. have already tangled around Hainan. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3 electronic reconnaissance aircraft flying in international airspace near Hainan tangled with a PLA Navy jet fighter. The Chinese pilot died, but in the fight, forced the damaged U.S. aircraft to land on Hainan and endure a humiliating disassembly by PLA intelligence services. This is likely a foretaste of the sensitivity China will accord U.S. or other naval forces that seek to monitor China's nuclear naval operations -- aimed in large part at the U.S.
* * *

While conflict with China over this region need not be preordained, there is a clear need to request that Beijing explain the content and purpose of its new large naval base at Sanya. China's potential to base a large force of nuclear weapons so close to the region covered by ASEAN's 1996 nuclear-free-zone treaty would at a minimum appear inconsistent with Beijing's pledge to sign protocols to this treaty. Furthermore, the Philippines' lack of any credible air or naval forces to defend its contiguous sea lanes, upon which much of Asia's commerce depends, creates a dangerous power vacuum.

China's movement of nuclear and future large-scale conventional naval forces to Sanya may fill this vacuum, but the interests of Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi, Canberra and Washington will also be engaged. China's buildup in Sanya is a clear illustration of the need for China to respond to calls by Japan, Australia and the U.S. for greater military transparency. The only other prudent alternative is for these countries to increase their cooperation to defend their interests in deterring nuclear threats and threats to maritime safety.

Mr. Fisher is a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. This essay is based on an article in the May issue of Jane's Intelligence Review.

Satellite images of China's secret nuclear naval base

These are recently released photos of the secret nuclear naval base built by China in the South China Sea

Telltale: A satellite view of Sanya reveals signs of a submarine base, the Pentagon says

Formidable: An 094 nuclear submarine like the one apparently seen in satellite imagery of Sanya harbour, which also shows Chinese warships, below, moored alongside a long jetty

One of the photos shows China's latest 094 nuclear submarine at the base. U.S. Defence chiefs estimate China will have five of the 094 subs operational over the next two years, each capable of carrying twelve nuclear warheads.

Ominous: A tunnel entrance thought to lead to caverns that could hide many submarines

A 2005 picture shows engineering and excavation barges working at the same spot
Source: Daily Mail, UK (2 May 2008)

The entrance to a tunnel built into the hillside (The Telegraph, UK)

China builds a massive warship base

Jonathan Manthorpe,

Vancouver Sun

Friday, May 02, 2008

The maritime arms race in Asia has crossed another threshold with the publication of satellite pictures of a massive Chinese underground submarine and warship base giving it a significant tactical advantage in the strategically important South China Sea.

The naval base has been constructed by tunnelling into the mountainous shoreline of China's southern Hainan Island near a place called Sanya.
The entrance is so large it will allow vessels from China's growing fleet of over 50 conventional and nuclear-powered submarines to enter and leave the base without being spotted by the West's spy satellites.The first ship assigned to the base last December was the first of China's new Type 094 nuclear ballistic missile submarines, which carry 16 JL-2 ballistic missiles, each with a range of 8,000 kilometres. The missiles could reach about four-fifths of North America if fired from a submerged Type 094 stationed just off the coast of China.

Western intelligence organizations believe the base will accommodate up to 20 of China's nuclear powered submarines and probably several surface ships, including aircraft carriers, as well.

Chinese military planners have for years been debating whether to build aircraft carriers, which are an enormously complex element of a navy to use effectively.
For several years the noises from China suggested the planners had abandoned the idea of carriers in favour of cheaper, more simple and effective weapons such as missiles.

But the political judgement that aircraft carriers are an important way of demonstrating power to neighbouring and competing countries appears to have won the day.

Latest reports suggest Beijing may order the construction of up to six aircraft carriers and their supporting battle groups within the next few years.

It has been known for over six years that China was constructing the base as part of its effort to challenge United States naval dominance in the Pacific Ocean and Asia, and to be able to project Beijing's power throughout the region and beyond.

But interest in the development was revived two weeks ago when the British-based publication Janes Intelligence Review published photographs of the entrance to the base obtained from the commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe.

China's determination to be able to project power in Asia is a strong concern to the U.S. Navy, which already judges Beijing's submarine fleet a deterrent to Washington being able to sail to the aid of Taiwan if the island nation is invaded by China.

But China's maritime ambitions are of special concern to India, which is already a significant naval power and sees its regional supremacy being challenged by Beijing.

In part in response to China's Sanya base the Indian navy is building a similar underground base at Rambilli in the south-central state of Andra Pradesh.
The Indian base is due to be completed by 2011 and will serve as the depot for the country's entire fleet of submarines, currently 16, but due to grow significantly in coming years with the construction of a class of domestically designed nuclear powered boats euphemistically called Advanced Tactical Vessels.

Like China's Sanya base, Rambilli will allow submarines to enter and leave the facility while submerged and therefore away from the prying eyes of spy satellites.

Rambilli is very much a response to China's extension of its naval reach, which has seen Beijing make a pact with Islamabad to use a Pakistan naval base at Gwadar and another with Burma to establish an electronic eavesdropping centre on the Coco Islands to keep tabs on the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal.
It has now become a published element in India's naval doctrine that a central task is to be able to deter navies from outside the region -- for which read China -- from operating freely in South Asian waters.

China's dramatic expansion and modernization of its navy in recent years has been driven by the need to give reality to Beijing's threats to invade Taiwan, the island nation of 23 million people which China claims to own.

But because domestic American legislation requires the U.S. to aid in Taiwan's defence if the island is invaded, Beijing has had to acquire enough power to deter the U.S. Navy in order to make its threat credible.

Beijing has done that by concentrating on development of its submarine fleet and by acquiring, initially from Russia, the most modern anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles obtainable.

Within recent months Chinese submarines have demonstrated their capabilities by suddenly appearing off the important American forces bases at Okinawa in Japan and the Pacific island of Guam without being previously detected.
Last November a Chinese submarine surfaced in the middle of a U.S. Navy battlegroup led by the aircraft carrier Forrestal. The boat had not been detected.

But as China's economy has grown by leaps and bounds, so has Beijing's concerns about keeping sealanes open for the delivery of resources and the export of manufactured goods.

The South China Sea is of special concern to Beijing because it is the transit route for many imported resources, especially oil and minerals, and because China has territorial disputes in the region will all the countries of Southeast Asia bordering the sea.

Most recently those disputes have boiled over with Hanoi after Beijing announced it was establishing an administration over islands in the Paracel group that are claimed by Vietnam.

Beijing's Dirty Moves

By Tony Le
29 April 2008

For months and months, the Olympic torch relay route showed Paracel Islands enlarged and boxed off on the map as Chinese territories. Vietnamese people all over the world have been protesting this blatant move by China to politicize the Olympics by using it to make illegal claims on territories that it stole from Vietnam. A Vietnamese torch bearer, Le Minh Phieu, even wrote to the IOC President about the matter. No response ever came from the IOC or Beijing in response to these protests.

Finally, right before the final leg of the torch relay was to take place in Saigon on April 29th, suddenly, we notice that on the relay map on the Olympic website, the Paracel Islands have been removed completely. (see ).

The decision by Beijing to remove the Islands from its relay route map may be interpreted in two ways. The first explanation is that Beijing finally gives in to the demands of the Vietnamese people because it understands that it has violated Olympic rules by using the sports festival to make claims on Vietnamese territories.

But we are not too naive to think that Beijing would have a change of heart so easily. The second interpretation is more plausible. Vietnamese who have been calling for protests cite the route map as a primary reason for such an action. Thereforre, if Beijing removes the map, then there would be no reason for protest. This action is meant to neutralize the antagonistic feelings that Vietnamese have towards Beijing and would in effect "pull the rug out from under them".

In addition, Saigon is the last leg of the international part of the relay. All these months, people of the world have already looked at the map and have already seen the islands. They have already been persuaded that these islands legitimately belonged to China. Now that the torch comes to Saigon, the job of the map is essentially done. Removal of the islands does not hurt China in the least.

This is not the first time that Beijing resorts to this kind of cheap conciliatory trick to appease the Vietnamese public opinion. Last year, when hundreds of Vietnamese students protested in front of Chinese missions in Hanoi and Saigon over Beijing's establishment of Sansha to govern the Spratly and Paracel Islands, China chastised Vietnam for allowing such protests to occur. Afterward, a local official in Hainan was quoted in the South China Post as saying that he knew of no plan to establish Sansha. It is amazing how an official could not know of a plan that had been approved by the Chinese central government itself. But this was the kind of trick that Beijing used to quell anger directed to its plans to annex Vietnamese land and waters.

Fortunately, Vietnamese people are not so naive as to fall for such cheap and dirty tricks by Beijing. Removal of the map itself does not mean that China will not continue to find all kinds of means to control Vietnam's Eastern Sea and the islands in it. And this Vietnamese would not be surprised in the least if immediately after the torch leaves Saigon, the relay map returns to the way it was before.

Letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung

Sender: Le Trung Thanh, Vietnamese Citizen, Overseas Archictecture Student in Taipei, Taiwan

To the respected Prime Minister:

On April 29th, the Olympic torch relay ceremony will take place in Ho Chi Minh City. On the occasion of the torch coming to Vietnam, I write to you to express my desire to organize a successful demonstration against China for violating Vietnamese sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

I believe this is also the desire of all the Vietnamese people who are passionate about our national territories in the face of China’s deceptive plans of invasion.
I trust that you share the same opinion that if we organize a peaceful and non-violent demonstration, it also means that the Olympic torch relay ceremony is a success. That is the reason why I am writing this letter to you.

It was for this same purpose that on April 19th, I came to Bangkok, Thailand in order to send out a message to the international media that “Paracel and Spratly Islands belong to Vietnam” in order to protest China’s violation of Vietnamese territories.

My message received much attention from international news agencies and friends present at the event that day, along with good feelings that they reserve for our country.

This was a source of great encouragement and a good experience for myself and my friends in order to have appropriate behavior on April 29th in HCMC.
I would like to share the following with you:

1. The Thai government and police left a very beautiful impression for everyone when they reserved a very special place in front of the United Nations office for the contingent of protesters, and gently asked them to avoid provocative behavior.

Supporters as well as protester expressed their individual feelings orderly and the police accomplished their responsibility of keeping security and order.

2. I believe that both you and I are Vietnamese citizens, so we have the responsibility to protect and be faithful to our Country. This has been indicated clearly in the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 1992 (Articles 8, 9, 31, 69, 76).

In the issue of “Paracel and Spratly Islands” we both have the duty to raise our voice in protest, because our silence means that we agree to lose the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

But if there are diplomatic concerns, the Vietnamese government can assist Vietnamese citizens to demonstrate peacefully against China so that they may implement their duty to their country in a constitutional and legal way.

3. At 11 in the morning on April 29, 2008, we, who carry in ourselves Vietnamese hearts will gather in front of the City Opera House, along with banners and slogans protesting China’s violation of Vietnamese sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, will demonstrate in the spirit of peace and non-violence.

On the side of the government, I propose that you order the security forces and police to carry out their responsibility of ensuring security for the contingent of protesters.

4. I have also informed the international media who will come to observe and record pictures so that the world will look onto us with good feelings.

That is, Vietnamese citizens carry out their right to love their Country, demonstrate peacefully against China’s deceptive plan of using the Olympics to annex Vienamese territories.

That is also the behavior of the police forces of Vietnam, which seriously ensure security and order for both the 2008 Olympic torch as well as the protesters of the politicisation of the Olympics.

As Vietnamese people, we have never been afraid of the Northern imperialist forces. I invite you to review the pages of our people’s glorious history in order to have more courage in the face of difficult decisions:

“Nguyen Trai’s Poem:Proclamation following a victory over the Chinese” [excluded in translation]

Respected Prime Minister, throughout our history of thousands of years of building and maintaining our country, our forefathers have never been afraid to face Northern imperialist forces. Today, I also believe that all Vietnamese people, myself and you included, desire that the rights and the civic duty of Vietnamese people will never come under China’s decisions.

Therefore, on April 19th in Bangkok, even though I carried in myself the will to fight for my country, I was very ashamed that I had to kneel on the land of a foreign country to fight for my own Fatherland.

Please note that when this letter arrives in your hand is when it has also been publicized on the mass communication outlets. We, the Vietnamese people who are concerned with the destiny of the country await your response.

Lastly, I send you my regards for good health and clear mind in order to prudently lead, protect, and build the Fatherland.

With respect,

Le Trung Thanh

Translated by Le Duc

For Vietnamese, no harmony in torch journey
24 April 2008

By all accounts, the Ho Chi Minh City leg of the Olympic Torch relay taking place on the 29th of April is expected to be relatively trouble free for the Beijing government. Most likely, we will not see protesters in support of Tibet or Darfur in the streets due to Vietnam's strict laws governing public demonstrations. However, that does not mean that the Vietnamese people are welcoming the Olympic torch with open arms. On the contrary, for the past months, there have been intense discussions on internet forums and blogs of Vietnamese both inside and outside of Vietnam regarding the coming of the torch to HCMC.

Many Vietnamese, especially the educated young are actively campaigning for demonstrations on April 29th, which happens to coincide with the eve of the Fall of Saigon in 1975, to protest Beijing's aggressions in Vietnam's Eastern Sea (South China Sea). Vietnamese anger directed at Beijing is exploding once again fueled by recent renewed reports of the Chinese navy's capturing, shooting, and killing of Vietnamese fishermen. Previously anger surfaced in response to China's seizure of Paracel Islands in 1974, then again with the Spratly Islands seized since 1988. China asserts claims on all of the Paracel and Spratly Islands, and over 80% of Vietnam’s Eastern Sea, an egregious action that has no basis in international law. As a result, many Vietnamese fishermen who make their living in these waters have fallen victim to Chinese navy patrols.

Recently, Le Minh Phieu, a Vietnamese selectee to bear the torch in HCMC wrote to the IOC President to inform the Committee of Beijing's violations of Olympic rules by politicizing the sports festival. Phieu pointed out that Beijing took advantage of the Olympics to legitimize its illegal claims of Paracel Islands by depicting the archipelago on its relay route maps as Chinese territory. The tiny islands totaling only a few square kilometers in area appear enlarged and boxed off on the route map.

In December of last year, Vietnamese students staged protests in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and the general consulate in HCMC for two consecutive weekends in response to Beijing's decision to establish the administrative region of Sansha to govern the Paracel and Spratly Islands. The protests in Vietnam spurred anti-Beijing protests staged by Vietnamese in many cities in Europe, Asia, and America.

Similar to its neighboring counterparts of New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta, Hanoi is also expected to be intolerant of protests on the occasion that the Olympic torch arrives to HCMC. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in a weekend meeting with officials in HCMC ordered them "to conduct the relay safely and solemnly, showing the patriotic, sports-loving and peace-loving spirit of the Vietnamese people and the Vietnam-China special friendship."

Hanoi has welcomed the Beijing's "men in blue" to help keep the relay incident free. But unlike the past protest attempts in which Vietnamese students were stopped by the police even before they made it to the designated site, this time, it is not possible, unless the city wants to stage an "audience-less" torch relay. So, everyone will have to be allowed to come to the site of the event.

But we can be sure that not everyone in the crowd will come to cheer for the torch. Some are expected to have a trick or two up their sleeves. If they do manage to pull off a protest or some sort of public gesture to show their anger at Beijing's aggression in Vietnam's Eastern Sea, the Vietnamese will most likely have all the media attention to themselves since it is unlikely that they have to compete with Tibet and Darfur groups. This was the obstacle that Vietnamese protesters faced in Paris and San Francisco, where virtually all the media attention was given to the Tibet issue, leaving the Vietnamese cause unnoticed.

The Olympic torch will come and go, but it is certain that the dispute over the Paracel and Spratly Islands will remain a quagmire for a long time to come. As China's economy grows along with its unceasing appetite for natural resources, Beijing will find it even harder to give up its claims on the islands and the waters of Vietnam's Eastern Sea, no matter how fragile those claims are from a legal standpoint. It has also been building a nuclear submarine base in Hainan Island to advance its ambitions. However, Beijing can also be sure that the Vietnamese people, especially the young generation, sense an urgency to defend Vietnam's territorial integrity and the lives of Vietnamese fishermen.

As Vietnamese are aware of Beijing's increasing aggression in the region, they are more likely to gather support and join hands in a concerted effort to thwart a possibility of Chinese hegemonic reality in Southeast Asia. When Beijing decided to establish Sansha last year, it probably did not expect that there would be such a strong reaction from the Vietnamese people. The issue at hand is whether Hanoi and the world is ready to take more assertive actions in the face of Beijing's outrageous violations against the Vietnamese people and their national territories.