Tue, Nov 29, 2011 - Page 1 News List

South China Sea all PRC’s, op-ed claims

BETWEEN THE LINES:Some analysts have begun to question whether opinion pieces appearing in official media represent Beijing’s position or internal debates

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

“We are never opposed to freedom of navigation,” Tien said.

At the request of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Herman Shuai (帥化民), a project to draw up and publish a new map of the South China Sea where the country has sovereignty is currently underway, Tien said.

Tien said the Ministry of the Interior would present a detailed report on the country’s territorial position and its line of reasoning after it completes the map.

The government bases its sovereignty claim on a map developed in 1947 using 11 interrupted lines drawn in a “U-shape” showing that the Spratly Islands (南沙群島), the Paracel Islands (西沙群島), the Macclesfield Bank (中沙群島) and the Pratas Islands (東沙群島) were within the territory of the country with reference to history, geography and international law.

Also last week, Major General Luo Yuan (羅援), a researcher at China’s Academy of Military Science of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said countries disputing China’s claims to the South China Sea would be making a mistake in interpreting Beijing’s “goodwill” and “self-restraint” for “softness” and “weakness.”

Countries that made such a mistake “can only get the opposite of what they wish for,” the South China Morning Post quoted the analyst as saying.

In a clear warning to what China sees as external interference in its backyard, Luo said Washington and Tokyo would only make things more complicated by getting involved in the overlapping claims over a series of islets in the South China Sea, which involves five of the 10 ASEAN member states as well as Taiwan.

These developments occured as Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said for the first time on Friday that China had used military force to occupy the disputed Paracels in 1974.

China, he said, “used force to occupy all of the Hoang Sa [Paracel] Islands” in 1974, when the islands were jointly controlled by China and then-South Vietnam.

In related developments, the PLA said last week it had set up a strategic planning department as the army is rapidly modernizing to undertake more sophisticated operations.

The report, which appeared on the People’s Liberation Army Daily’s Web site, said the department, which will be administered by the General Staff Headquarters, will study critical strategic issues, draft plans and reform proposals for the PLA’s development, submit suggestions on the allocation of PLA strategic resources and examine and evaluate the implementation of PLA development plans.

Luo told the China Daily the move was in response to “increasingly sophisticated military operations in the future that might involve multiple combat forces and headquarters.”

“The new department will become an authoritative and comprehensive planning center,” Luo said.

Asked for comment, China watcher Gordon Chang (章家敦) expressed alarm at this development.

“Notice this is the same Luo Yuan who just threatened to use China’s military to enforce Beijing’s expansive claims to the entire South China Sea,” he told the Taipei Times.

“There are few coincidences when it comes to the PLA. They are planning to wage war and China’s flag officers are not shy in telling us how far they will go to achieve their objectives,” he said.

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