South China Sea: United States urges United Nations to reject China’s claims

Kristin Huang

The United States has added its voice to growing calls at the United Nations objecting to China’s claims over the strategically important and resource-rich South China Sea.

In a letter submitted by the US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, on Monday, the US urged the UN to reject China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, saying they did not comply with the 1982 US Law of the Sea Convention (Unclos).

“[And] as those claims purport to unlawfully interfere with the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the United States and all other States, the United States considers it essential to reiterate its formal protests of these unlawful assertions and describe the relevant international law of the sea as reflected in the convention,” the letter said.

The letter comes about six months after China underlined its claim to much of the contested waters, notifying the UN in December that Beijing had sovereign rights to all islands in the South China Sea, including the Paracels and Spratlys.

That notification prompted a flurry of objections from countries in Southeast Asia.

On March 30, the Vietnamese delegation at the United Nations submitted a diplomatic note to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres objecting to China’s claims in the South China Sea.

“Vietnam objects to China’s claims in the aforementioned diplomatic notes. These claims seriously violate Vietnam’s sovereignty and jurisdiction rights over the East Sea,” it said, referring to part of the South China Sea.

Vietnam has repeatedly asserted its claim to the Paracel and Spratly islands as well as the waters around them.

Then late last month, Indonesia sent a rare diplomatic note to the head of the UN, spelling out the Indonesian government’s support for a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, a ruling that Beijing rejected.

“Indonesia reiterates that the nine-dash line map implying historic rights claim clearly lacks international legal basis and is tantamount to upset Unclos 1982,” Indonesia said, referring to a boundary on Chinese maps that encompasses Beijing’s claims in the maritime region.

In its objection on Monday, the US said it opposed China’s claim to “historic rights” in the South China Sea “to the extent that claim exceeds the maritime entitlements that China could assert consistent with international law”.

“The United States reiterates its prior objections to any claim of internal waters between the dispersed islands China claims in the South China Sea, and to any claim of maritime zones derived from treating island groups in the South China Sea as a collective,” it said.

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