News / USA

Obama Pushes Law of the Sea to Help Settle S. China Sea Claims

Obama Pushing UN Law of the Sea to Help Settle South China Sea Claimsi
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June 02, 2014 11:09 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says a U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea would help ease tensions in the South China Sea if is ratified by U.S. lawmakers. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.
U.S. President Barack Obama says a U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea would help ease tensions in the South China Sea if is ratified by U.S. lawmakers

China is facing a series of maritime disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea.

Speaking to Army Cadets at West Point, President Obama says it's more difficult for the U.S. push for a resolution of rival claims because it exempts itself from rules that apply to everyone else.

"It’s a lot harder to call on China to resolve its maritime disputes under the Law of the Sea Convention when the United States Senate has refused to ratify it - despite the repeated insistence of our top military leaders that the treaty advances our national security," he said. "That’s not leadership; that’s retreat."

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea -- or UNCLOS -- establishes rules for commercial and military shipping as well as the distribution of offshore oil and gas royalties.

That has made it a target for the president's opponents, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"I do not believe the United States should endorse a treaty that makes it a legal obligation for productive countries to pay royalties to less-productive countries based on rhetoric about common heritage of mankind," he said.

While not ratified by the Senate, the United States does observe most of the structures of the Law of the Sea treaty.  

"I think the president was making a false choice," said American Enterprise Institute analyst Michael Auslin. "He was saying if we don't ratify UNCLOS, we can't call China to account for any of its provocative, coercive, and aggressive behavior. That's completely false. Of course we can."

The latest flare-up in the South China Sea concerns a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam -  a standoff that Chinese Deputy Army Chief Wang Guangzhong says is being forced on Beijing.

"China, in its issues concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, has never taken the first step to provoke trouble," he said. "It has always been that China has been forced to respond."

Vietnamese protesters say Beijing is trying to provoke wider confrontation over disputed islands.

American University professor Hillary Mann Leverett says Beijing is trying to undermine U.S. alliances in Asia.

"The way China has done that is to push these allies over issues that the United States doesn't really care about -- a craggy island here, a craggy island there," she said.  "Why should the United States really send the 7th Fleet out to fight China over these various islands?"

U.S. reluctance to confront China has nothing to do with the Law of the Sea, says Auslin.

"I think it shows a very disturbing trend line in the Obama administration of trying to find excuses for not getting more involved in the maritime and naval disputes that are roiling Asia," he said.

The Philippines is using Law-of-the-Sea mechanisms to challenge China's territorial claims, but China is refusing to join that non-binding tribunal.

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by: NG from: Canada
June 17, 2014 3:10 AM
the 11-dash line (boundary between China and Vietnam/Phillipines etc) of South China Sea was set by KMT (taiwan) government, who was an ally of the US in WWII, now the 11-dash line reduced to 9-dash line. During WWII and after WWII until 1950-1970s, Philippines and Vietnam have never questioned 9-dash line, actually Vietnam even acknowledged by written form for boundary between China and Vietnam (i.e. 9 dash line). In the past 20-30 years, these two small bothers, Philippines and Vietnam, changed their mind and used 1980s so called sea treaty to try to get more South China Sea back. Vietnam even claimed almost all of South China Sea as its territory. The sea treaty is ratified in 1980s and is not applicable for boundary set in 1950-1970s. We cannot use current law to judge cases which happened before the law was in effect.

For example, the current US immigration law are not applicable to people who came to North America before the US immigration law was in effect, if you disagree with this, most Americans should go back to Europe since most of them came to North American illegally, and they should follow the current US immigration law to immigrate to US again. If you think this is ridiculous, then only stopping blaming China, China does have its reasons and basis for South China Sea claims. Please remember KMT government (Taiwan), a US ally, set up 9-dash line in 1940s.

Please also remember that it is Vietnam who occupied most South China Sea islands and extracted (is extracting) huge amounts of gas and oil from South China Sea , NOT China, China didn’t get one drop of oil from South China sea so far. So it is Vietnam who bully China, a small dog is biting a big dog.
Calm down before you only blame China and before your prejudice. These Asian countries should talk and stop provocative actions, e.g. Vietnam should stop extracting gas and oil from disputed South China Sea in order to get China back to the Table. Vietnam, the aggressive small dog, should not bully China, the big dog, much if Vietnam really want to solve South China Sea issues.

Some aggressive small dogs really want to harass/bully/bite China. Like Japan invaded China during WWII. Japanese like to call themselves big Japan, but Japan is actually smaller than China in land area, but it is Japan who launched 14 years invasion to China during WWII. Can you believe it?



by: Clayton Bigsby from: USA
June 04, 2014 4:49 AM
The Chinese are thieves. They will not engage in bi-lateral or multi-lateral discussions with any of the aggrieved half a dozen countries in the SCS and ECS. Rather they take an aggressive uni-lateral approach using subterfuge to plant oil rigs, garrisons, landing strips, etc in the middle of the night. They know their claims will be refuted and found baseless by the international community.

by: jonathan huang from: canada
June 03, 2014 10:41 AM
funny, america finally realizes that it should just sh ut up and it is in no position of accusing chinas violation of UNCLOS. its ridiculous, a country is not part of UNCLOS but accuses other country of violating this law. can you be more double standard, a$$merica? and why a more productive china has to pay loyalties to much less productive Viet and Finos? get your own question back, america!
In Response

by: Taylor Tran from: United States
June 06, 2014 7:07 AM
What are you talking about you clown. Did you even look at the map on what China claims?, or are you just following your leaders mindlessly. Talking geographically, it's not even near China. Talking about claims from ancestry you have none. Don't be mixing the hate from the past with the current issue and for once just stop, look, and think. What makes sense about the proportion China claims. And just by saying we are less productive people proves you ignorance. I know I should have ignored it, but your ignorance needs to be in check.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 03, 2014 10:20 AM
The law of the sea? -- Was the US and Europeans, Russia and Japan "Gunboat Treaties" and "Unequal Treaties" they forced upon a helpless humiliated China for over a hundred years? --

DON'T TELL China about the "Law of the sea" -- they learned all about it the hard way, for over a hundred years of humiliation, from the "Gunboat Treaties" and "Unequal Treaties" forced upon them by the US, Europeans, Russia and Japan. -- (AND NOW?) -- China said, "It will never ever give up "one inch" of the motherland again" -- wherever that "one inch" of sovereign land, sea, or air, may be? --- (ONE INCH?).
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
June 03, 2014 12:49 PM
Hey harry from Australia, -- When China said it would never ever give up "one inch" of the motherland again -- was that a promise to the Chinese people -- (OR?) -- is it a warning to those who'd try taking "one inch" of land, sea, or air, of the Chinese sovereign motherland? --- (A promise or warning?).
In Response

by: harry from: Australia
June 03, 2014 11:20 AM
The modern world cannot exist if nations want to settle old scores esp with nuclear weapons.We are 7billion living in a planet that is getting smallerwith every new human being born.

by: Osamas Pajamas from: Ramona, California
June 03, 2014 1:27 AM
OhBummer is in favor of any measure which inflicts injury and expense on the USA or its allies.

by: harry from: australia
June 02, 2014 11:02 PM
If America does not ratify the Law of the Sea then the consequences are that Amerca will be tested everytime there are claims and counter claims.And if they are not resolved peacefully than the global superpower will have to intervene.If America wants to be more inward looking then it is about time they stop calling themselves an international policeman.The chinese will exploit every weakness to exert themselves in the world and truly they are not to be trusted.The world is indeed entering into choppy waters and stormy seas.

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