China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam have made “excessive maritime claims” over the South China Sea, according to the Annual Freedom of Navigation Report 2020 prepared by the US Department of Defense.
Released on Thursday, the report included a list of coastal countries that are allegedly making attempts to unlawfully restrict the rights and freedoms of navigation, overflight, and other lawful uses of the sea.
These claims, the report said, are made through laws, regulations, or other pronouncements that are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.
“If left unchallenged, excessive maritime claims could permanently infringe upon the freedom of the seas enjoyed by all nations,” the US Defense Department said in the report.
Based on the report, China has the most number of irregular activities in the South China Sea. It allegedly committed the following excessive maritime claims:
- straight baseline claims
- criminalization of surveying and mapping activities by foreign entities which do not obtain approval from or cooperate with the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
- jurisdiction over all surveying and mapping activities “in the territorial air, land, and waters, as well as other sea areas under PRC jurisdiction,” without distinction between
- marine scientific research and military surveys.
- security jurisdiction over the contiguous zone.
- prior permission required for innocent passage of foreign military ships through the territorial sea.
- territorial sea and airspace around features not so entitled (i.e., low-tide elevations)
Malaysia was called out for allegedly requiring prior consent for military exercises or maneuvers in the exclusive economic zone.
Taiwan, meanwhile, supposedly committed an excessive maritime claim for requiring prior notification for foreign military or government vessels to enter the territorial sea.
Vietnam, meanwhile, was called out for allegedly requiring prior notification for foreign warships to enter the territorial sea.
The excessive maritime claims of these countries caused multiple operational challenges in the area, the US Department of Defense said in its report.
Citing the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the US Defense said all nations have the rights and freedoms to engage in traditional uses of the sea.
It said these rights and freedoms are balanced with the coastal States’ control over maritime activities.
“As a nation with both a vast coastline and a significant maritime presence, the United States is committed to preserving this legal balance as an essential part of the stable, rules-based international order,” it said.
“Some countries do not share this commitment. Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims—or incoherent legal theories of maritime entitlement—that are inconsistent with international law pose a threat to the legal foundation of the rules-based international order. Consequently, the United States is committed to confronting this threat by challenging excessive maritime claims,” it added. —KBK, GMA News