Chinese researchers say they have identified a number of “strategically important” rare earth mineral deposits as part of a decade-long survey of the world’s sea floors.[ More ]
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday sharply warned China and Russia against “aggressive” actions in the Arctic, while resisting a diplomatic push by other countries in the region to avert the worst effects of climate change.[ More ]
Ship by ship, port by port, China has over the past two decades been assembling one of the essential engines of global power: a modern navy capable of projecting force far from home.[ More ]
The authors argue that the Trump Administration's suspension of FONOPs, presumably to curry favor with the Chinese over North Korea or trade, is a bad bargain for the U.S. as it will not incentivize China to cooperate and could destabilize relations in the long run.[ More ]
China has a new generation of stealthy, supersonic anti-ship missiles, and the U.S. is clearly worried about them. Former U.S. rear admiral Eric McVadon described them as the “strategic equivalent of China’s acquiring nuclear weapons in 1964.”[ More ]
The air pollution that lingered over eastern China for nearly a month in 2013 has been linked to the loss of Arctic sea ice the previous autumn.[ More ]
China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned Washington against challenging its sovereignty, responding to reports the United States was planning fresh naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea.[ More ]
U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders want to ratchet up potentially provocative operations in the South China Sea by sailing more warships near the increasingly militarized man-made islands that China claims as sovereign territory, according to several Navy officials.[ More ]
Resource-hungry China is stepping up activity in one of the final frontiers of mineral wealth – the remote seabeds lying kilometres beneath the Indian and Pacific oceans.[ More ]
China's leadership is resisting pressure from elements within the military for a more forceful response to an international court ruling against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea, sources said, wary of provoking a clash with the United States.[ More ]
- "The U.S.-China Incidents at Sea Agreement: A Recipe for Disaster."
Ultimately, peaceful resolution of competing maritime claims in the South China Sea will require multilateral negotiations in conformity with international law, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has observed. The brass ring is a binding Code of Conduct among rival claimants, which has proved elusive. Achieving this result will require at least two shifts. The first is a united front among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose summit in Pnomn Penh in July collapsed into acrimony on this question, thanks to Chinese pressure on the Cambodian hosts. Cambodia gets a second chance to get it right this month, when it hosts the final major meeting of its ASEAN chairmanship, which will consider an Indonesian-proposed draft of the code. The second is real movement from China. At stake in the South China Sea is the entire concept of China’s peaceful rise. Recent weeks provide a glimmer of hope in this regard, including Beijing’s endorsement in mid-October of a joint declaration with ASEAN counterparts, which among other provisions commits the parties to peaceful resolution of disputes and the ultimate goal of a code of conduct. The end of China’s protracted leadership transition , which will officially begin during the eighteenth Communist Party Conference on November 8 may allow a mellowing of recent Chinese behavior, giving the incoming government of Xi Jinping an opportunity to rein in the more assertive positions of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) on maritime issues.
The Obama administration should encourage all parties to move as promptly as possible toward a binding code of conduct. To be sure, as Tom Wright points out, the United States would have much more diplomatic credibility and influence if it were actually a party to UNCLOS, which would demonstrate that it is willing to play by the same rules that it seeks for others. In this regard, the upcoming lame duck session of Congress would be an ideal time for the Senate to finally ratify UNCLOS.
Chinese activity in the Arctic to some extent mirrors that of other non-Arctic countries, as the region warms.
The European Union, Japan and South Korea have also applied in the last three years for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council, which would allow them to present their perspective, but not vote.
This once-obscure body, previously focused on issues like monitoring Arctic animal populations, now has more substantive tasks, like defining future port fees and negotiating agreements on oil spill remediation. “We’ve changed from a forum to a decision-making body,” said Gustaf Lind, Arctic ambassador from Sweden and the council’s current chairman.
Even so, Arctic nations and NATO are building up military capabilities in the region, as a precaution. That has left China with little choice but to garner influence through a strategy that has worked well in Africa and Latin America: investing and joining with local companies and financing good works to earn good will. Its scientists have become pillars of multinational Arctic research, and their icebreaker has been used in joint expeditions. And Chinese companies, some with close government ties, are investing heavily across the Arctic. In Canada, Chinese firms have acquired interests in two oil companies that could afford them access to Arctic drilling. During a June visit to Iceland, Premier Wen Jiabao of China signed a number of economic agreements, covering areas like geothermal energy and free trade. In Greenland, large Chinese companies are financing the development of mines that are being developed around discoveries of gems or minerals by small prospecting companies, said Soren Meisling, head of the China desk at the Bech Bruun law firm in Copenhagen, which represents many of them. A huge iron ore mine under development near Nuuk, for example, is owned by a British company but financed in part by a Chinese steel maker. Chinese mining companies have proved adept at working in challenging locales and have even proposed building runways for jumbo jets on the ice in Greenland’s far north to fly out minerals until the ice melts enough for shipping. “There is already a sense of competition in the Arctic, and they think they can have first advantage,” said Jingjing Su, a lawyer in Bech Bruun’s China practice.
UNCLOS has become an important barometer of U.S. power in the Pacific Ocean. At stake is the country's capacity to uphold, preserve, and strengthen a rules-based order in Asia as China rises. In July 2010, at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States believes that all maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea must be resolved multilaterally and in accordance with international law. It is a policy that she repeated at the deadlocked 2012 ARF in Cambodia. For its part, China objected to the "multilateralization" of maritime disputes then and continues to do so now. Beijing believes that it is more likely to make gains if it strikes individual bargains with weaker powers, including Manila and Hanoi. The other capitals realize this, which is why they welcomed Clinton's commitment to multilateralism.
A strong multilateral structure in Asia is a prerequisite to balancing Chinese assertiveness. The United States should not take sides in other countries' disputes, but it can and must insist upon a strong regional framework to ensure that a rising China does not destabilize the status quo. On this issue, the 34 senators who oppose the treaty are taking Beijing's side. They are speaking up for the bilateralism and unilateralism that will harm the U.S.-led regional order in the Asia-Pacific. No doubt, news of Ayotte and Portman's recent declarations was greeted warmly in Beijing. U.S. allies and strategic partners in South East Asia, meanwhile, will be even more doubtful of Washington's capacity to maintain its leadership role. It is strategic multilateralism in the Atlantic that helped the United States to win the twentieth century. Without concordant multilateralism in the Asia-Pacific, it will not fare so well in the twenty-first.
LOSC critics often argue that the treaty’s navigational provisions are redundant given that countries – including the United States – comply with customary international law. However, as navies around the world modernize, states may seek to redefine or reinterpret customary international law in ways that directly conflict with U.S. inter- ests, including freedom of navigation. Ratification will help the United States counter efforts by rising powers seeking to reshape the rules that have been so beneficial to the global economy and to U.S. security. China, for example, seeks to alter customary international law and long-held interpretations of LOSC in ways that will affect operations of the United States as well as those of many of its allies and partners. Some U.S. partners and allies share China’s view on some of these issues. Thailand, for example, has adopted China’s view that foreign navies must have consent of the coastal state before conducting military exercises in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a view that runs counter to traditional interpretation of the treaty.10 LOSC provides a legitimate and recognized framework for adjudicating disagreements that will enable the United States to sustain access to the global commons.
Ratifying LOSC will give the United States added legitimacy as it seeks to defend the interests of allies and partners in the Asia Pacific, particularly countries involved in disputes over the South China Sea. Tensions between China and Southeast Asian states over historical territorial claims and jurisdiction over potentially lucrative seabed natural resources are escalating because of increasingly assertive behavior on all sides. LOSC is central to mitigating tensions and avoiding conflict in the South China Sea, which involve territory demarcation, maritime navigation and other issues covered by the convention. Without ratifying LOSC, the United States will be unable to credibly encourage efforts of allies like the Philippines as it attempts to mediate a dispute with China over the joint development of resources in the South China Sea using the LOSC dispute settlement mechanism.
Although critics of LOSC rightly argue that the treaty will not bind China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea,29 evidence suggests that despite attempts to interpret the treaty in ways that promote its own interests, China is willing to work within the LOSC framework. According to one expert, recent statements by the ministry of foreign affairs reaffirm that “China will advance maritime claims that are consistent and compliant with UNCLOS,” which may allow states to press China to clarify its claims through the treaty’s dispute settlement mechanism and bring the region closer to a negotiated settlement.30 However, countries in the region may be reluctant to press China to clarify its claims lest they strain relations with their largest trading partner. As a party to LOSC, the United States could support its partners by pressing China to clarify its maritime claims, which are legitimately tied to U.S. maritime interests in the region, including freedom of navigation rights for the U.S. Navy.
Political and legal activity publicized by international civil society and transnational organizations may be used to bring pressure against a potential adversary. China seeks to leverage international organizations and willing national governments in its lawfare campaign. The Department of Defense reports, for example, that the assertion of claims and rights in the maritime domain could enhance the perceived legitimacy of coercive Chinese operations at sea.79 From the Chinese perspective, the global nature of international politics and the proliferation of international laws and regu- lations serve to make this form of legal warfare more effective than in the past.80
In terms of maritime strategy, China’s legal warfare is a resourceful anti-access or sea denial strategy. Sea denial is employed by inferior continental navies to deny maritime powers the ability to exercise command of the sea and thereby limit their influence over events on land.81 Employment of submarine mines is an example of a traditional sea denial strategy. China seeks to create “strategic depth” to the Chinese mainland by denying access of its EEZ to warships and aircraft of the United States, Japan and other coun- tries in the region. The strategy of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) set forth in a recent Chinese defense white paper is directed at the “gradual extension of strategic depth for offshore defensive operations” and for “enhancing its capabilities in inte- grated maritime operations and nuclear counterattacks.”82
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS is critical to broader U.S. strategy in the Asia Pacific and managing China's rise.
- U.S. ability to peacefully resolve South China Sea disputes compromised by its non-party status to UNCLOS
- U.S. must challenge China's flawed interpretation of UNCLOS freedom of navigation provisions
- U.S. can best influence China to abide by international rule of law as a party to UNCLOS
- U.S. can best challenge China's excessive claims as a party to UNCLOS
As a signatory to UNCLOS, the PRC occasionally implies that its interpretations should trump those of the United States, which has yet to ratify the convention that Washington nevertheless employs as a bludgeon against Beijing’s claims that UNCLOS permits limitations by coastal states on foreign military activities in the EEZ.
- US abstention from UNCLOS is a vulnerability China can exploit to promote its lawfare campaign to control South China Sea
- Ratifying UNCLOS would give U.S. stronger argument to pressure China in South China Sea
- Multilateral cooperation to curb Chinese aggression in South China Seas depends on U.S. adherence to and ratification of UNCLOS
- Allowing China to prevail in its South China Sea claims would pose a number of risks to U.S. national security and global economy
- ... and 28 more quote(s)
China views its excessive regulatory claims over the EEZ as an important component of its ability to conduct asymmetric maritime warfare and deny U.S. access to the Asia-Pacific region.
- China executing a lawfare campaign against U.S. navy with excessive EEZ claims
- U.S. freedom of operations under continual and increasing challenge by a more aggressive China
- Multiple examples of Chinese excessive naval claims that run afoul of UNCLOS
- China's excessive claims run counter to its global economic ambitions and its own territorial defense strategy
- ... and 5 more quote(s)
China is taking concrete diplomatic steps to ensure that it becomes a player in the Arctic game and eventually will have what it regards as its fair share of access to Arctic resources and sea routes.
- China's dependence on resources could force it to become more aggressive in its bid to gain access to Arctic resources
- China views coming resource struggle in Arctic as possibly leading to military conflict
- China actively lobbying for inclusion in the Arctic Council to gain access to Arctic resources
- China actively pursuing Arctic science and expanding relations with Arctic countries
- ... and 7 more quote(s)
Ratification of UNCLOS will neither sway China nor guarantee U.S. navigational rights in the South China Seas any more than continued U.S. naval presence through the Freedom of Navigation program.
- Maritime disputes with China won't be solved by legal wrangling but asserting rights through diplomacy and establishing a pattern of state practice
- Chinese aggressive claims in South China Seas motivated by three strategic goals
- China attempting to use UNCLOS to bind participants to its interpretation of military activities clause, U.S. should not play along
- U.S. Navy's freedom of operation in South China Sea could be more constrained after ratification of UNCLOS
- ... and 10 more quote(s)
U.S. capability to influence China would be strengthened by a reassertion of the American leadership role over the development of international law of the sea. Since UNCLOS is the basis of modern international law of the sea, the U.S. should ratify the Convention in order to more effectively exercise this leadership from within the ranks, not just from outside them.
- U.S. can best demonstrate rule of law leadership by ratifying the Law of the Sea
- U.S. credibility in the Asia Pacific region is dependent on its ratification of UNCLOS
- UNCLOS is having a normative effect on shaping China's laws and behavior
- Ratifying UNCLOS would give US ability to credibly demand nations abide by rules in South China Sea
- ... and 5 more quote(s)
By ratifying the Convention, the U.S. will have the support of the international community to exert pressure on China—either for peaceful dispute resolution or to adhere to the provisions of the Convention that it too has ratified.
- Convention offers diplomatic mechanism to resolve maritime disputes with China
- China's aggressive maritime posture is a consequence of U.S. failure of leadership on UNCLOS
- China using U.S. non-party status to UNCLOS to bludgeon it for hypocrisy when U.S. challenges China's excessive claims
- US shaping operations in Asia Pacific region would be greatly enhanced by US accession to UNCLOS
- Ratification of UNCLOS gives U.S. more ground to challenge China on freedom of navigation rights in South China Sea
- U.S. unable to resolve dispute with China over military ships operating in foreign EEZs as a non-party to UNCLOS
- U.S. stance on FONOPs in China's territorial waters undercut by its non-party status to UNCLOS
Chinese practice with regard to innocent passage, exclusive economic zones, and sovereignty claims over what China calls “Historic Waters” is largely inconsistent with UNCLOS.
- China at odds with UNCLOS standards defining coastal baselines
- U.S. and China disagree on definition of Marine Scientific Research clause under UNCLOS
- Chinese practice and policy are at odds with UNCLOS agreement
- China has disagreed with principle of EEZ in UNCLOS since initial discussions
- ... and 5 more quote(s)