On Sunday there was a confrontation between a US naval ship and Chinese vessels. I looked at articles in the NY Times and the Washington Post and neither really tried to explain the dispute. They just note that the US has protested harassment by the Chinese vessels in international waters and China says that the US ship was doing illegal things in its ‘exclusive economic zone’. Given the talk, you would think that the reporter would have done reporting: say what an ‘exclusive economic zone’ is and what international law says. The closest either come is this, in the Post:
Shen Dingli, director of the U.S. Studies Center at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the difference in the U.S. and Chinese perspectives turns on the intent behind the ship’s presence. He said that international vessels, including navy ships, are allowed in the area where the USNS Impeccable was as long as it is in a “non-harmful” or “innocent” manner.
In contrast, Shen said: “The U.S. Navy ship came to monitor Chinese submarines. This is not non-harmfully passing by. . . . This activity equals disrespect to Chinese sovereignty. Under such conditions, what the Chinese government is doing is to protect Chinese national interests and international law.”
Here’s some info from Wikipedia (which comes from the United Nations Conventions on the Laws of the Sea, with the relevant information in article V–which both the US and China have agreed to):
The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
the US ship was within this zone, but what does that mean?
1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:
(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;
(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:
(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;
(ii) marine scientific research;
(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;
(c) other rights and duties provided for in this Convention.
2. In exercising its rights and performing its duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of other States and shall act in a manner compatible with the provisions of this Convention.
ok I don’t know if this would allow spying or not, but if China has the right to control spying then:
1. The coastal State may, in the exercise of its sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve and manage the living resources in the exclusive economic zone, take such measures, including boarding, inspection, arrest and judicial proceedings, as may be necessary to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations adopted by it in conformity with this Convention.
A quick search finds that Shen Dingli
is professor of International Relations, Executive Dean of the Institute of International Studies, and Director of Center for American Studies at Fudan University. Prof. Shen specializes in regional and international security, arms control and nonproliferation, security and nuclear relations between China and the United States, as well as China’s foreign and defense policies.
which would seem to be relevant. Couldn’t they find someone from the US to talk about this?
3/11/09 Update: The BBChas an update with a few more details and a map showing some of the disputed territory (the economic exclusionary zone of China overlaps with those of other countries in the region, Vietnam, the Phillipines, Malaysia). Here’s their quick synopsis:
The boundaries of China’s EEZ remain disputed, while Beijing and Washington differ on which activities are permitted by law within a nation’s EEZ. China has a key submarine base on Hainan island.
What I find a little surprising is that there seems to be no mechanism to resolve disputes. Here’s the extent in the treaty:
In cases where this Convention does not attribute rights or jurisdiction to the coastal State or to other States within the exclusive economic zone, and a conflict arises between the interests of the coastal State and any other State or States, the conflict should be resolved on the basis of equity and in the light of all the relevant circumstances, taking into account the respective importance of the interests involved to the parties as well as to the international community as a whole.
Umm, yeah that’ll help.
3/13/2009 Update: The US has now sent a destroyer to protect the US ship. I’m hoping that there’s some diplomacy going on behind the scenes.