China is planning to expand its installation at a disputed island in the South China Sea (SCS) to establish an artificial island with an airstrip and sea port, rejecting the jurisdiction of the International Court over the festering dispute in the region.
“The proposal to build an artificial island there had been submitted to the Chinese government,” said Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University. The artificial island would have an airstrip and sea port and be at least double the size of the US military base of Diego Garcia, a remote coral atoll occupying an area of 44 square kilometres in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Jin said.
“We had the ability to build artificial islands years ago, but we had refrained because we didn’t want to cause too much controversy,” said Zhang Jie, an expert on regional security with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
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However, this year was seen as a “turning point” in which Beijing appeared to be making more offensive moves in the area, said Jie, citing the recent deployment of an oil rig to disputed waters near Vietnam.
“Building an artificial island can no doubt provide supplies to ships and oil rigs nearby, but this would also cause very severe negative impacts in the region,” she said. China has rejected the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague this week which asked China to submit evidence on its territorial claims in South China Sea within six months for a procedural review of the suit filed by the Philippines.
The tribunal, set up under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has no jurisdiction over the territorial and maritime disputes in the region, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
In addition to Philippines, Vietnam which is currently confronting Chinese naval ships over the deployment of an oil rig by Beijing in the disputed waters of SCS also plans to join the arbitration at Hague court.
Besides Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and the Taiwan hotly contest China’s claims over almost all SCS. Previously, China’s air defence identification zone over the East China Sea, which was set up last year has already drawn sharp criticism from Japan, US and its western allies which said they will not respect it.
China has filed a formal declaration that invoked opt-out clause of Article 298 of the convention in 2006. China is entitled to reject arbitration in disputes concerning boundaries, historic titles or military activity, according to the UNCLOS rules of convention, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
It is legally clear that the request by the Philippines does not fall within the tribunal’s scope and Manila’s request should be rejected. China will definitely not submit any evidence to the tribunal, it said.
The line, declared by the Chinese government in as early as 1947 and clearly marked in historical documents, obviously concerns a matter of sovereignty and is not governed by UNCLOS, it added.