Saturday, July 9, 2016

South China Sea

Interesting background on the South China Sea situation. Easy read, and I learned something.

Under Unclos, coastal nations get an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 200 nautical miles from their shores. In that zone they have sole exploitation rights over all natural resources, though other nations have the freedom of navigation and overflight. The waters within 12 nautical miles are "territorial waters," where countries have essentially full sovereignty.

An EEZ also applies to the area around a country's islands too—so whoever controls the Spratlys and Paracels, for instance, also gets a large chunk of ocean to go with them. China's nine-dash line not only encompasses those strategic bits of rock but also overlaps with several countries' EEZs. [snip]

China's provocations operate at various levels. The most basic is sending fishing trawlers to fish in other countries' EEZs. It backs them up with refueling ships—disguised as fishing boats—and even sends its own coast guard to extricate them when they get caught. This sort of behavior has prompted Indonesia, for one, to beef up its military presence and turn to nano-satellites to better track potential trespassers in its waters.

China has also built artificial islands islands in the South China Sea by pumping sand onto live coral reefs and then paving them over with concrete. This kind of action—which also does great environmental damage—gives China a base (paywall) for air and sea patrols.

The next level is to act as if these artificial islands are real land, with their own EEZs and territorial waters. Under Unclos, such artificial islands don't have maritime rights, and nor do submerged reefs. But in a "freedom-of-navigation operation" in May, the US sent a naval vessel deliberately within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly archipelago's Fiery Cross Reef, on top of which China has built an island. (It has a runway for fighter jets, a hospital with its own garden, and even a farm with about 500 animals.) In response, China scrambled jets and shadowed the US vessel with three warships, ordering it to leave the area.


If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honor more.

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