CHICAGO – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have prodded the U.S. government to “reconsider its traditional policy of not taking a position on individual claims” in the South China and East China Seas and “respond to provocations by the People’s Republic of China with commensurate actions that impose costs on any attempts to undermine security in the region.”
In introducing the South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act last March 15, the two senators suggested that the U.S. government should impose sanctions on Chinese individuals and entities that take part in Beijing’s illegitimate activities in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
Citing the Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy issued by the Department of Defense in 2015, Rubio and Cardin said, “Although the United States takes no position on competing sovereignty claims to land features in the region, all such claims must be based upon land (which in the case of islands means naturally formed areas of land that are above water at high tide), and all maritime claims must derive from such land in accordance with international law.”
But on July 12, 2016, they said, China issued the fifth statement since 1979 that it has “sovereignty over four rocks and shoals in the South China Sea,” yet China continues to claim historic rights in South China Sea’s “internal waters, territorial seas, contiguous zones, one or more exclusive economic zones, and a continental shelf based” on sovereignty claims (over rocks and shoals in the South China Sea).
On July 13, 2016, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin declared that an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea would depend on the threat China faces, saying that “if our security is threatened, we, of course, have the right to see it up.”
On July 18, 2016, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China said it had conducted a “combat air patrol” over South China Sea and that it would become “regular practice” in the future. A spokesman later said, “the People’s Liberation Army Air Force “will firmly defend national sovereignty, security and maritime interests, safeguard regional peace and stability, and cope with various threats and challenges.”
On Aug. 2, 2016, the Supreme People’s Court of China issued a judicial interpretation that people caught illegally fishing in Chinese waters could be jailed for up to one year.
The two American senators, invoking the unanimous ruling on July 12, 2016 of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on South China Sea dispute in favor of the Philippines against China, said the “award is final and binding under the Convention.”
They said the Tribunal “concluded that, to the extent China had historical rights to resources in the waters of the South China Sea, such rights were extinguished to the extent they were incompatible with the exclusive economic zones provided for in the convention.
“The Tribunal concluded that this was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the areas falling within the “’nine-dash line.’”
They added that the Tribunal “found that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum (a) exploration, (b) constructing artificial islands and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.
But China considers the Tribunal’s ruling “null and void.”
In seeking to impose sanctions on China, the senators said, the U.S. should invoke the “agreement concerning the Ryukyu Islands and Daito Islands with related arrangements, signed at Washington and Tokyo on June 17, 1971 between the U.S. and Japan, known as “Okinawa Reversion Treaty” and Article V of the Mutual Defense Treaty signed at Washington Aug. 30, 1951 between the U.S. and the Philippines.