For the first time, the United States government has come out publicly with an explicit statement that the so-called “nine-dash line,” which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan assert delineates their claims in the South China Sea, is contrary to international law.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel, in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 5, said, “Under international law, maritime claims in the South China Sea must be derived from land features.
Any use of the ‘nine-dash line’ by China to claim maritime rights not based on claimed land features would be inconsistent with international law. The international community would welcome China to clarify or adjust its nine-dash line claim to bring it in accordance with the international law of the sea.”
Related: Philippine ship dodges China blockade to reach South China Sea outpost:
(Reuters) – The Philippine government vessel made a dash for shallow waters around the disputed reef in the South China Sea, evading two Chinese coastguard ships trying to block its path to deliver food, water and fresh troops to a military outpost on the shoal.
The cat-and-mouse encounter on Saturday, witnessed by Reuters and other media invited onboard the Philippine ship, was a rare glimpse into the tensions playing out routinely in waters that are one of the region’s biggest flashpoints.
It’s also a reminder of how assertive China has become in pressing its claims to disputed territory far from its mainland.
“If we didn’t change direction, if we didn’t change course, then we would have collided with them,” Ferdinand Gato, captain of the Philippine vessel, a civilian craft, told Reuters after his boat had anchored on the Second Thomas Shoal under a hot sun.
The outpost is a huge, rusting World War Two transport vessel that the Philippine navy intentionally ran aground in 1999 to mark its claim to the reef.
There, around eight Filipino soldiers live for three months at a time in harsh conditions on a reef that Manila says is within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China, which claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, says the shoal is part of its territory.
Things were going smoothly for the Philippine ship until it was spotted by a Chinese coastguard ship about an hour away from the Second Thomas Shoal. The Chinese boat picked up speed to come near the left of the white Philippine ship, honking its horn at least three times.
The Chinese ship slowed down after a few minutes, but then a bigger coastguard vessel emerged, moving fast to cut the path of the Philippine boat.
The Chinese sent a radio message to the Filipinos, saying they were entering Chinese territory.
“We order you to stop immediately, stop all illegal activities and leave,” said the radio message, delivered in English. Gato replied that his mission was to deliver provisions to Philippine troops stationed in the area.
Philippine troops wearing civilian clothes and journalists then flashed “V” for the peace sign at the Chinese…