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2015年6月 5日 (金)

(社説)南シナ海問題 中国は埋め立て中止を

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 2
(社説)南シナ海問題 中国は埋め立て中止を
EDITORIAL: China must immediately stop land reclamation in South China Sea

A senior Chinese military officer has offered some insight into what China is trying to achieve in land reclamation work on reefs in the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
At a security summit held in Singapore, Chinese Adm. Sun Jianguo stated on May 31 that Beijing has military objectives in mind.
The admiral, who is deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told the annual meeting known as the Shangri-La Dialogue that the undertaking is partly aimed at meeting the country's “necessary defense needs.” He also indicated that an airstrip being built on one of the reefs will be used for both military and civilian purposes.

His remarks are totally unacceptable. The reefs in this area are claimed by several neighboring countries in territorial disputes. China’s attempt to unilaterally create a fait accompli by force clearly violates international rules. China should stop the reclamation work immediately.

On Fiery Cross Reef, a runway is emerging on land reclaimed by China. It is becoming the largest patch of ground in the Spratly Islands, a group of hundreds of reefs, islets and atolls in waters close to vital shipping lanes.

China may establish an air defense identification zone over the land it is reclaiming.

A defense white paper released by the Chinese government on May 26 declared a shift in the focus of its defense strategy toward naval operations, promising to put higher priority on the navy than on the army. Sun’s remarks reflect this strategic shift.

In expanding its presence in the South China Sea, China is apparently trying to acquire military capabilities to control important shipping lanes as well as seeking to secure fisheries and seabed resources.

Sun also cited “maritime scientific research” and “environmental protection” as objectives for reclamation work. But reclamation amounts to nothing less than destruction of the environment.

Beijing seems to be confident that its behavior will not lead to sanctions by other countries, despite the international criticism. But this is the arrogance of a major power.

China has defended its actions in the South China Sea by saying they are within its sovereignty. This argument is based on China’s claim that history warrants its sovereignty over the vast expanses of the resource-rich and strategically important South China Sea within the “nine-dashed line,” or a U-shaped demarcation line used by the Chinese government for its territorial claims of most of the South China Sea.

In maps used in China, the line is drawn as if it constituted part of the country’s national borders. But the line is not based on any solid legal grounds in terms of international law.

The Chinese administration of President Xi Jinping has pledged to pursue diplomatic relations with neighboring countries based on the principles of “sincerity” and “mutual benefits.”

Beijing has reached a series of agreements with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on peaceful solutions to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China should realize that its strong-arm actions with regard to these issues are undermining the trust of its neighbors.

It is also worrisome that a number of Southeast Asian countries are expanding and enhancing their naval power in response to China’s actions.

The Philippines is reinforcing its military bases on islands under its effective control, while Vietnam is reportedly reclaiming land on reefs.

U.S. military operations aimed at keeping China land reclamation work in check could also further exacerbate tensions in the area.

Taiwan, which maintains effective control over one island, recently proposed that all the claimants agree to shelve the territorial disputes and work together to develop resources.

Taiwan’s proposal is worth serious consideration, even though Taipei cannot take part in international talks over such issues because of its relationship with China.

Serious international efforts to restore peace and calm in the South China Sea are needed immediately. Otherwise, the situation will continue to deteriorate rapidly.


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