Event Reports

Neither India nor China should get into tit-for-tat situation, says Chinese envoy

Photolabs@ORF
2016
May
23

Beijing recognises an emerging trust gap and it was important that neither India nor China get into a tit-for-tat situation with regard to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean Region, according to acting Ambassador to India, Mr. Liu Jinsong.

The Ambassador was presenting Beijing’s views on maritime governance in the region during an interaction with Chinese delegation of think tanks, led by Dr. Wu Shicun, President of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCS) and Mr. Liu Jinsong at Observer Research Foundation on May 18, 2016.

Referring to Indian Ocean and South China Sea, the Ambassador said, “neither India nor China could exclude outside powers, but we cannot forget that their doctrine is that of sea control whereas ours is of shared power and benefit.”

Mr. Liu Jinsong called for reform of the UN Charter to reflect the realities of the day. He also called for the bilateral observance of the five principles of peaceful co-existence of Panchsheel and settlement based on bilateral talks; the principle “land controls the sea” which is the basic principle of UNCLOS. The principle of Estoppel where countries which had earlier accepted Chinese sovereignty to Paracel islands had now changed their position (Vietnam).

Dr. Wu Shicun articulated that China will spare no effort to safeguard peace and security in South China Sea because it was affected by any disorder. China would safeguard freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and insisted that resolution could only take place through bilateral talks and on the basis of customary international law.

He said, given the nature of the dispute which has raised issues of sovereignty, its sensitivity and complexity, it may be a good idea to set aside the dispute to promote joint development of the resources of the area, much in the pattern of the China-Brunei arrangement. China would continue to work with ASEAN to work out a code of conduct.

Beijing is setting up hotlines with ASEAN foreign ministers to prevent tensions from spilling over, Dr. Wu Shicun said.

According to the Chinese delegation, the principle that ‘the land dominates the sea’ (Principle of Domination), which is the basic principle of UNCLOS is key to establishing ownerships in the South China Sea. Reclamation has taken place to develop facilities to enhance China’s capacity to meet international civilian obligations; militarisation of these islands will depend of Chinese assessment of its security concerns.

Dr. Shicun and Senior Captain Zhang Junshe have argued that the Chinese were the first to discover and administer islands in the South China Sea. The artificial islands (or reclaimed islands as the Chinese called it) are for civilian purposes like Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) for navigation with three lighthouses already build and defence. According to them, exercises by the US are endangering peace in the area and their Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) are violating the Chinese requirement of prior permission for military entry into territorial seas. Beijing In this context views its position and India’s was not very different — where India seeks prior notification for military activity in its EEZ, China wants similar prior permission.

The US Navy deployed an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, within 12 n miles of the Chinese-controlled Fiery Cross Reef on May 10. This is the third FONOP conducted by the US Navy since October 2015 when USS Lassen, another Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 n miles of Subi Reef. January 2016 saw the USS Curtis Wilbur, also an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, which sailed within 12 n miles of Triton Island in the Paracels conducting a second FONOP. China’s Ministry of National Defence, has responded  that the People’s Liberation Army will be increasing maritime and air patrols in the South China Sea in response to the US Navy’s FONOP’s. These operations have prompted the construction of “various defence capabilities” in these areas.