Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Navigation freedom no excuse for interference

By LIU HAIYANG (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-10 08:41

More importantly, the operations and attitude of the US military are becoming more provocative, hostile and aggressive, as proved by its recent incursions into the waters near China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea. And since it is the US that is actually "militarizing" the South China Sea, China has to adapt its policies to the changing situation in the region.

How China will respond depends largely on US intentions and behavior. If the US military vessels and aircraft travel thousands of miles just to create trouble, China has the inherent right to self-defense as guaranteed by the UN Charter and other international laws.

If the US military vessels and aircraft transit this area in line with international law, the exercise of the freedom of navigation is guaranteed to every country under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, even the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea fails to provide explicit regulations on activities involving "innocent passage" of warships through territorial seas. More than 40 countries' domestic maritime laws require foreign warships to give prior notice or obtain prior authorization before entering their territorial waters. And it will be baseless if the US tries to use "freedom of navigation" as an excuse to interfere in the regional sea disputes.

Other regional countries-particularly members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, many of which may not be willing to choose sides-cannot remain unaffected by the rising tensions. So, they should play a more responsible and positive role to defuse the tensions. The US could easily pull out its military from the area after inciting a conflict and leaving China and other regional countries to pay the price for its actions. Therefore, all regional countries have to make concerted efforts to maintain peace in the South China Sea.

The author is a research fellow at the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing University.

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