The United States presented its most detailed case yet against Beijing’s “illegal” claims in the South China Sea on Wednesday, dismissing both the geographic and historical bases of its vast, divisive map.
In a 47-page research paper, the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said China had no basis in international law for allegations that put Beijing on a collision course. with the Philippines, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries.
“The overall effect of these maritime claims is that the PRC unlawfully claims sovereignty or some form of exclusive jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea,” the paper said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
“These allegations seriously undermine the rule of law in the oceans and many universally recognized provisions of international law reflected in the Convention,” he said, referring to a 1982 United Nations treaty on the law of the ocean. sea ratified by China – but not the United States. .
In releasing the study, a State Department statement again called on Beijing “to cease its illegal and coercive activities in the South China Sea.”
The document is an update of a 2014 study that also challenged the so-called “nine-dash line” that forms the basis of much of Beijing’s position.
In 2016, an international tribunal sided with the Philippines in its complaints over China’s claims. Beijing responded by offering new justifications, including saying China had “historic rights” to the area.
The State Department document said such claims based on history had “no legal basis” and China did not provide details.
He also took issue with the geographic justifications for China’s claims, claiming that more than 100 features highlighted by Beijing in the South China Sea are submerged in water at high tide and are therefore “beyond legal limits of the territorial sea of any State “.
Beijing cites such geographic features to claim four “island groups,” which the State Department study found did not meet the benchmarks under the United Nations convention.
The report was released as the United States increasingly challenges China on the world stage, identifying the rising communist power as its main long-term threat.
In 2020, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explicitly supported the claims of Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea, going beyond the past US position of to challenge China without asking which countries were right.
The South China Sea is home to valuable oil and gas fields and shipping lanes, and Beijing’s neighbors have often expressed concern that their giant neighbor is looking to expand its reach.
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