Sat, Apr 09, 2016 - Page 1 News List

US hopes for clarification on South China Sea claims

By Nadia Tsao and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter in Washington, with staff writer

Posing for a photo on a visit Itu Aba Island on Jan. 27 are, from left, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin, Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, National Taiwan Ocean University’s Institute of the Law of the Sea director Robert Chen and Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia.

Photo: Tsao Yu-fen, Taipei Times

The US hopes Taiwan’s new government can make available relevant historical data on the South China Sea and shed light on the status of the Republic of China’s (ROC) “U-shaped line” in the region in the face of international law, National Taiwan Ocean University’s Institute of the Law of the Sea director Robert Chen (陳荔彤) said on Thursday.

The “U-shaped line” refers to the ROC’s formal claim of sovereign territory in the South China Sea post-World War II, in accordance with agreements made in the Cairo Declaration of Nov. 27, 1943, and the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945.

Chen was in Washington last week for an annual meeting of the American Society of International Law.

According to Chen, US officials said Washington felt President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration did not react strongly enough to China’s large-scale land reclamation projects in the South China Sea, adding that the US felt the Ma administration had not showed great support toward the US sending ships and planes into the region to bolster freedom of navigation and flight.

While the Ma administration’s explanation of the “U-shaped line” is correct, the most important part is the claims based on “historic rights,” Chen said.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), territorial water can only be claimed if it is connected to a nation’s sovereign territory, Chen said, adding that the “U-shaped line” contravened this.

However, Chen also said that the UNCLOS came into effect in 1980, while the ROC had already claimed islands — most notably Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) — in the South China Sea in 1947, adding that despite the ROC government retreating to Taiwan in 1949, the nation’s claim was staked in 1947 and should not be given up lightly.

The incoming government should continue to adhere to such ambiguous claims, Chen said, adding that an “actual takeover” of the islands in the South China Sea had been researched, announced and implemented without dispute at the time.

Chen said he told US officials that Taiwan’s claims had strategic ambiguity and he hoped the US would support such a move, adding that Taiwan would not seek to cooperate with China in the South China Sea, nor would it enter into conflict against China over the issue.

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