南シナ海緊張 無法極まる中国の軍事拠点化

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China’s military base-building in South China Sea totally unlawful
南シナ海緊張 無法極まる中国の軍事拠点化

China’s lawless conduct in the South China Sea, which continues to heighten regional tensions, is hard to ignore. It is indispensable for the United States, Japan and other nations concerned to persistently point out the illegitimacy of China’s conduct to the international community.

China recently had a military aircraft landing and taking off from a runway on an artificial island it built through land reclamation of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Beijing claimed that, with the aim of transporting construction workers who had suddenly been taken ill on the island, it had dispatched a maritime patrol aircraft on missions over the South China Sea.

The incident came after China said it had conducted an operational test of the runway in January, using what it called “civilian aircraft.” This is the first case in which China’s use of military aircraft on the island has been made public.

The top Chinese general has inspected the facilities built on some islands in the Spratly chain. Although China did not state the locations covered by his inspection, the general is believed to have visited man-made islands. Media in Vietnam, which has a territorial dispute with China, have reported on a huge radar facility constructed on one of China’s artificial islands, and accompanied its report with a photo of the equipment.

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping is escalating its deceitful conduct, as illustrated by accelerated efforts to turn its artificial islands in the South China Sea into military bases, while making a far-fetched argument that its behavior does not constitute militarization.

What cannot be overlooked is that China’s forceful actions aimed at displaying its “sovereignty” have become conspicuous not only in regard to its man-made islands, but also in reefs and sea areas in the South China Sea that are not subject to extremely bitter territorial disputes.

U.S. patrols vital

Close to 100 Chinese fishing boats were recently seen sailing around reefs within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone, accompanied by a Chinese government vessel. In an area near an Indonesian island, a Chinese government ship took possession of a fishing boat that had been detained for illegal fishing activities, after ramming an Indonesian patrol boat.

The Philippines has brought a case before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration over China’s self-justified territorial claims. The court is expected to hand down a judgment disadvantageous to China this month or in June.

The Xi administration may try to ensure that its effective control over the South China Sea becomes fait accompli before that ruling.

It is essential to make sure freedom of navigation, a principle based on international law, is realized through continued patrols by U.S. warships in areas China insists constitutes its territorial waters. This will be necessary to discourage China from acting unilaterally.

Late this month, U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Vietnam for the first time, with the intention of strengthening bilateral ties in the field of maritime security. Under a military pact signed between the United States and the Philippines, U.S. forces are set, in effect, to start stationing some troops in the Philippines.

It is necessary that the United States build a framework in order to exert constant pressure on China through increased cooperation with Vietnam, the Philippines and other pertinent nations.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has told Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries that Japan will fully cooperate with them to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the South China Sea. Japan must share its anxiety over China with these nations while also affirming the importance of preserving maritime order.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 9, 2016)

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