Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Vietnam's claims do not hold water

By Li Jieyu (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-09 07:55

In safeguarding its marine rights and interests, China attaches great importance to legitimacy. In dealing with the disputes in the South China Sea, China complies with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and international norms.

UNCLOS grants coastal states sovereignty over territorial seas and sovereign rights to explore and exploit the natural resources in exclusive economic zones. In 1996, China drew baselines for the Xisha Islands and measured the territorial sea and exclusive economic zones accordingly.

China abides by UNCLOS in exploring and exploiting natural gas and oil resources in the South China Sea, and Vietnam has no right to criticize China's drilling platform that has entered into operation near the Xisha Islands.

As petroleum and natural gas resources are located mainly on the continental shelf, the fishing resources are probably the most important resources in exclusive economic zones, and because of the increasing number of Vietnamese fishermen in China's territorial waters around the Xisha Islands, Hainan province had to issue special regulations to maintain security in 2013.

From the past to now, Vietnam proclaims the marine areas where it is exploiting and exploring for oil and natural gas resources are within its exclusive economic zones, which is groundless and in violation of UNCLOS. In 1992, China authorized Crestone in America to explore and exploit natural resources in Wan-an Bank, however, Vietnam moved a drilling rig there, and sent gunboats and armed fishing vessels to make trouble.

Baselines are starting points to measure territorial sea, exclusive economic zones and continental shelf, and there are three types, among which, straight baselines are one. Where the coastline is deeply indented or there is a fringe of islands in the immediate vicinity of the coast, coastal states may select appropriate base points and connect them to form straight baselines. From the perspective of international practice, offshore islands used as base points should in general be no further than 24 nautical miles from a country's coast. Vietnam has adopted straight baselines using nine offshore islands that are small and isolated, and more seriously, distant from the coast. Five of the aforementioned offshore isles are at a distance more than 50 nautical miles from Vietnam's coast. It is Vietnam not China that is disregarding UNCLOS.

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