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2015年10月29日 (木)

(社説)南シナ海 各国共通の利益を守れ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 28
EDITORIAL: China triply unreasonable in vital waterway for world’s trading vessels
(社説)南シナ海 各国共通の利益を守れ

The South China Sea must remain open for vessels of all flags to navigate freely.

This is the basic premise of any argument related to complex territorial issues concerning these waters.

On Oct. 27, a guided-missile destroyer of the U.S. Navy sailed near Subi Reef in the Spratly archipelago.

Under China’s de facto control, Subi is part of Beijing’s massive reclamation project to build artificial islands, and an airstrip is being built there.

The destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometers) of the artificial island that Beijing claims is in Chinese waters. The Pentagon explained that the vessel was sent there to assert “freedom of navigation.”

Under international laws, warships are allowed within territorial waters if their passage is “innocent.” If the U.S. destroyer did nothing to aggravate the situation and was where it was for the exact reason given by the United States, we support the latter’s assertion.

Right after China unilaterally declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea in November 2013, the U.S. Air Force flew a pair of B-52 bombers over the ADIZ without prior warning. We believe the dispatch of the destroyer this time was for the same intent as in 2013--namely, to make the U.S. intention known by action.

Sending warships or warplanes can hardly be called an amicable gesture. It could invite unintended consequences. But fortunately, there was no confrontation between U.S. and Chinese vessels this time. Both countries must continue to exercise self-restraint.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reacted vehemently, denouncing the U.S. action as a threat to China’s sovereignty and security and damaging to regional peace and stability.

However, this assertion does not stand to reason.

The situation today is the result of China’s own actions in the South China Sea.

Subi Reef was originally a small rocky outcrop that became submerged at high tide. As such, it was not deemed an island under international maritime laws. But China not only reclaimed the waters around it to build a man-made island, it also claimed territory within 12 nautical miles of the island, and then refused to acknowledge the U.S. destroyer’s right to innocent passage. In other words, Beijing is being triply unreasonable.

Although China asserts its historical rights in most of the South China Sea, its reclamation project at seven locations can only be seen by other countries as a blatant case of expansionism.

The South China Sea is a vital waterway for the world’s trading vessels.

Free and safe navigation in these waters is of common interest not only to the United States, China and countries of Southeast Asia, but also to all countries, including Japan.

After economic reforms, China sought trading partners around the world and achieved phenomenal economic development. Now that its economy is slowing down, China needs those partners more than ever.

Inviting tensions with other countries cannot possibly be in China’s best interest.


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