Saturday, May 26, 2012

Shall We Rely on a Fleet of Paper?

I don't understand why people think the Law of the Sea is the best way to preserve our Navy's access to the world's seas in the face of attempts to expand claimed waters by various nations.

But there is a recent push by our top brass to argue for ratification. While there are troubling provisions regarding ceding sovereignty and cash to non-US bodies that should (again) disqualify the treaty for consideration (Really, treaty supporters seriously arguing we need to join a treaty to avoid being bound by treaty rules that others will write and impose on us even though we don't recognize that the treaty applies to us? Just how small will our fleet get?), the idea that it will rein in China is absurd.

One US senator wonders why the administration is making this effort when the strength of our Navy has been the ultimate guarantee of freedom of navigation?

Could it be that some have decided to put their hope in a piece of paper rather than provide the resources necessary to maintain our Navy’s traditional strength? Does this U.N. treaty provide real justification for such devastating cuts?

I can believe the current crowd in Washington, D.C. believes exactly this.

But why would China stop making claims to the South China Sea if we join the treaty when China already signed the treaty yet makes claims that exceed what the treaty allows?

In a March, 2008 cable, the embassy reported that a senior Chinese diplomat, Zheng Zhenhua, had handed over a written statement when asked about the scope of this boundary.

"The dotted line of the South China Sea indicates the sovereignty of China over the islands in the South China Sea since ancient times and demonstrates the long-standing claims and jurisdiction practice over the waters of the South China Sea," the statement said, the embassy reported.

Scarborough Shoal falls within the nine-dashed line, as do the Paracel and Spratly Islands, the two most important disputed island groups in the South China Sea. ...

China insists it has sovereignty over both these groups but it has yet to specify how much of the rest of the territory within the nine-dashed line it intends to claim.

One reason suggested for this lack of clarity is that China, like all of the other claimants except Taiwan, is a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

If Beijing defined its claim to conform with the provisions of this treaty, it would almost certainly reduce the scope of Chinese territory and expose the government to criticism from vocal nationalists.

Alternatively, if Beijing was to maximize the extent of its claim to include all or most of the territory within the nine-dashed line, it would be difficult to justify under international law and antagonize its neighbors. ...

Most maritime experts doubt China will agree to have any claims over the South China Sea heard by the United Nation's International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the body set up to rule on disputes.

Shouldn't their acceptance of the Law of the Sea clarified and limited their claims? Apparently not.

China is now engaged in bitter disputes with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal and Japan over the Senkaku Islands, both located far beyond China’s 200-mile-wide territorial waters in the South China Sea. Indeed, so expansive are China’s claims nowadays that many Asians are wondering what will satisfy China’s desire to secure its “core interests.” Are there no limits, or does today’s China conceive of itself as a restored Middle Kingdom, to whom the entire world must kowtow?

Are we really waiting for the Peking leadership to assure us that they have no more territorial core interest ambitions?

Trust a strong military and robust alliances to keep freedom of navigation. This treaty will only allow us to pretend--for a while--that a strong military and robust alliances aren't necessary.