Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Update: China’s Expanding Claims of the Spratly Islands Inhibits the Freedom of the Seas

           Communist China is now claiming the 12 nautical-mile territorial limit around its artificially-enlarged islands in the Spratlys.  Like the several other foreign states that have staked claims to some of the Spratly Islands, China has garrisoned and fortified several of the islands it claims.  But by enlarging them by several square miles, as I posted earlier this month, they are thus expanding their claim over the potentially oil-rich waters of the South China Sea, as the 12-mile limit is based upon the expanded territory of the islands.   

Indeed, China, because it claims all of the Spratlys, just as it had previously seized the Paracel Islands, the sovereignty of which was disputed with Vietnam, now claims that all the international waters of the South China Sea fall within China’s 200-mile economic exclusionary zone.  Such a claim would not only exclude oil exploration by the neighboring states with competing claims over the territory, but even fishing. 

            China’s claims are reminiscent of the claim by Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi over the entire Gulf of Sidra for Libya.  The United States conducted freedom of navigation missions in the Gulf for many years to deny Libya’s dubious claim to international waters, which most foreign states did not recognize, and also flew fighter jets over it, which the Libyans occasionally attacked.  The effort was successful in denying Libya’s claim and defend the freedom of the seas.  It is necessary now for the U.S. to conduct such operations in the South China Sea in order to defend the freedom of the seas.  Such operations are usually conducted peacefully.  

           The principle of the freedom of the seas, which Americans first asserted successfully against the Barbary Pirates in the early Nineteenth Century, is one of the most significant contributions of the U.S. to mankind.   Freedom of the seas in international waters has enabled travel and commerce for Americans and everyone else around the world.

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