A leading US academic with close ties to the White House is urging the US to open talks with Taiwan on the “nine-dash line.”
Senior Fellow in International Diplomacy at the Brookings Institution Jeffrey Bader made the call in his new paper on ending ambiguity in the South China Sea.
The so-called “nine-dash” demarcation line is used by China and Taiwan to support claims to parts of the South China Sea, including contested areas of the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) and Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) believed to contain large oil deposits.
“The US should discuss with Taiwan whether it can clarify its position on the nine-dash line, to make clear that its claims are consistent with the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Bader said.
A former senior director for East Asian affairs on US President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, Bader also called on Washington to discuss with “all claimants” a possible agreement to exploit mineral and fish resources.
Such an agreement should be without regard to sovereignty and should include the use of joint ventures between companies, he said.
At the same time, he urged the US Senate to ratify UNCLOS to give the US legal and moral standing to participate more actively and effectively in decisions on the future of the South China Sea.
“We should put our money where our mouth is,” he said.
Bader said that the US should urge China not to establish any new air defense identification zone in the South China Sea.
“While a public position on this is necessary, private diplomacy is more likely to be effective in influencing Beijing,” Bader said.
This comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves Washington this week for a trip that includes stops in China, South Korea and Indonesia.
US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry would “meet with senior government officials and address a range of bilateral, regional and global issues.”
With tensions running high in Asia over China’s disputed territorial claims, the nine-dash line is sure to be on the agenda in Beijing.
Taipei will be briefed on Kerry’s Beijing talks soon after they take place.
Bader wrote in his paper that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Danny Russel said last week that the nine-dash line was contrary to international law.
It was the first time that the US government had come out publicly with an explicit statement on the issue.
Bader noted the South China Sea encompasses several hundred small islands, reefs and atolls.
He says the People’s Republic of China inherited from the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government of China the nine-dash line, which draws a boundary around the islands, asserts sovereignty over them and makes ambiguous claims about rights to waters inside the line.
“It has long been implicit in the US interpretation of UNCLOS that claims to the mineral and fish resources of the South China Sea, unless they are linked to specific inhabitable islands, are invalid,” Bader said.
“Russel’s statement has made that position explicit,” he adds.
The US has important interests in the South China Sea, including freedom of navigation, preventing the use of force or coercion to resolve claims and ensuring that the rights of all countries, not merely large ones, are respected, Bader said.