Thu, Oct 29, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Xi Jinping faces a dilemma over US vessel: academic

Staf writer, with CNA

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) faces a dilemma on how to respond to a US vessel’s patrol close to two artifical islands built by China in the disputed South China Sea, National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations director Shuh-fan Ding (丁樹範) said.

The USS Lassen on Tuesday sailed within the 12 nautical mile (22.2km) territorial limit claimed by China around Subi Reef (Jhubi Reef, 渚碧礁) and Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁) in the in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), which Taiwan also claims.

Ding said China and the US would maintain their “fight without breaking” strategy, which he said entails the use of self-constraint to avoid further escalation of tensions while continuing to compete.

Ding said the US’ action is fully justified under the UN’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that foreign vessels, both military and civilian, are allowed innocent passage through territorial waters.

By deploying a vessel within 12 nautical miles of the two reefs, the US means to “deny China’s claim of sovereignty over the waters,” Ding said, adding that Washington would accuse Beijing of violating international law if China makes any move to intercept a US vessel.

If Beijing fails to react strongly, it would imply Xi accepts the rule of international law, which would raise doubts about Xi’s foreign affairs policy among Chinese hawks, such as People’s Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan (羅援), who has said that China must deal severe blows to any foreign power acting against China’s national interests.

The rise in Chinese nationalism could spell trouble for China and the rest of the world, Ding said, adding that it would substantiate the “China threat thesis” if Chinese vessels were sent to confront — or collide with — a US ship.

The USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer based in Yokosuka, Japan, left the waters near the reefs without encountering any Chinese military action.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) said the USS Lassen illegally entered the waters of China’s Spratly Islands, and Chinese authorities have “monitored, followed and warned” the vessel and lodged a protest against what he described as an “irresponsible US action.”

The South China Sea island chain — reportedly rich in natural resources — is the subject of competing claims by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

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