Tuesday, June 28, 2011

U.S. Senate Unanimously “Deplores” China’s Use of Force in South China Sea

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http://webb.senate.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/06-27-2011.cfm?renderforprint=1



Press Releases
U.S. Senate Unanimously “Deplores” China’s Use of Force in South China Sea


June 27, 2011

Washington, DC—The U.S. Senate today unanimously approved a resolution deploring the use of force by China in the South China Sea and calling for a peaceful, multilateral resolution to maritime territorial disputes in Southeast Asia. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, introduced the resolution on June 13 along with subcommittee ranking member James Inhofe (R-OK). Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) are original cosponsors.

On June 9, three Chinese maritime security vessels ran into and disabled the cables of a Vietnamese exploration ship, the Viking 2, in an area within 200 miles of Vietnam’s continental shelf and recognized under international law to be within Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone. This followed similar incidents on May 26 near Vietnam and in March near the Philippines, as well as incidents at sea last year in the Senkaku Islands, which are under the legal administration of Japan. Following international condemnation of the June 9 incident, China deployed its largest maritime security ship to the South China Sea. Several other countries in the region have also deployed military vessels to the area.

“A growing number of nations around the South China Sea are now voicing serious concerns about China’s pattern of intimidation. These nations include Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as countries such as Singapore that do not have a stake in the territorial disputes,” said Senator Webb. “This is a significant development toward fostering a multilateral approach to resolve these territorial disputes in a peaceful manner, respecting the sovereignty of all claimants.”

“The United States has a clear strategic interest in facilitating such a multilateral approach, ensuring open access to international waters and air space, and promoting adherence to international law,” said Senator Webb.

The resolution passed by the Senate today:
(1) reaffirms the strong support of the United States for the peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and pledges continued efforts to facilitate a multilateral, peaceful process to resolve these disputes;

(2) deplores the use of force by naval and maritime security vessels from China in the South China Sea;

(3) calls on all parties to the territorial dispute to refrain from threatening force or using force to assert territorial claims; and

(4) supports the continuation of operations by the United States Armed Forces in support of freedom of navigation rights in international waters and air space in the South China Sea.

Senator Webb has expressed concerns over sovereignty issues in this region for more than fifteen years. His first hearing upon assuming chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee was on maritime territorial disputes and sovereignty issues in Asia in July 2009.

Senator Webb has worked and traveled throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia for more than four decades—as a Marine Corps Officer, a defense planner, a journalist, a novelist, a senior official in the Department of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, and as a business consultant. On his most recent trip to the region in April 2011, he met with government officials, business leaders and U.S. diplomats and military commanders in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Guam.


The text of S.Res.217 is below:


Title:
Calling for a peaceful and multilateral resolution to maritime territorial disputes in Southeast Asia.

Whereas, on June 9, 2011, 3 vessels from China, including 1 fishing vessel and 2 maritime security vessels, ran into and disabled the cables of an exploration ship from Vietnam, the VIKING 2;

Whereas that use of force occurred within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam, an area recognized as its Exclusive Economic Zone;

Whereas, on May 26, 2011, a maritime security vessel from China cut the cables of another exploration ship from Vietnam, the BINH MINH, in the South China Sea in waters near Cam Ranh Bay;

Whereas, in March 2011, the Government of the Philippines reported that patrol boats from China attempted to ram 1 of its surveillance ships;

Whereas those incidents occurred within disputed maritime territories of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, composed of 21 islands and atolls, 50 submerged land atolls, and 28 partly submerged reefs over an area of 340,000 square miles, and the Paracel Islands, a smaller group of islands located south of China’s Hainan Island;

Whereas China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei have disputed territorial claims over the Spratly Islands, and China and Vietnam have a disputed claim over the Paracel Islands;

Whereas the Government of China claims most of the 648,000 square miles of the South China Sea, more than any other nation involved in those territorial disputes;

Whereas, in 2002, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China signed a declaration on the code of conduct of parties in the South China Sea;

Whereas that declaration committed all parties to those territorial disputes to “reaffirm their respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea” and to “resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force”;

Whereas the South China Sea contains vital commercial shipping lines and points of access between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean;

Whereas, although not a party to these disputes, the United States has a national economic and a security interest in ensuring that no party uses force unilaterally to assert maritime territorial claims in East Asia;

Whereas, in September 2010, the Government of China also deliberately provoked a controversy within the waters of the Senkaku Islands, territory under the legal administration of Japan in the East China Sea;

Whereas the actions of the Government of China in the South China Sea have also affected United States military and maritime vessels transiting through international air space and waters, including the collision of a fighter plane of the Government of China with a United States surveillance plane in 2001, the harassment of the USNS IMPECCABLE in March 2009, and the collision of a Chinese submarine with the sonar cable of the USS JOHN MCCAIN in June 2009;

Whereas, like every nation, the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation and open access to the maritime commons of Asia;

Whereas the Government of the United States expressed support for the declaration by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China in 2002 on the code of conduct of parties in the South China Sea, and supports a collaborative diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various territorial disputes without coercion;
Whereas the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation and in unimpeded economic development and commerce;

Whereas, on October 11, 2010, Secretary Gates maintained “The United States has always exercised our rights and supported the rights of others to transit through, and operate in, international waters.”;

Whereas, on June 3, 2011, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Secretary Gates stated that “[m]aritime security remains an issue of particular importance for the region, with questions about territorial claims and the appropriate use of the maritime domain presenting on-going challenges to regional stability and prosperity”;
Whereas, on June 4, 2011, at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Liang Guanglie, the Defense Minister from China, said, “China is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.”;

Whereas, on June 11, 2011, the Government of Vietnam held a live-fire military exercise on the uninhabited island of Hon Ong, 25 miles off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea; and

Whereas, on June 11, 2011, Hong Lei, the Foreign Ministry spokesman of China, stated, “[China] will not resort to force or the threat of force” to resolve the territorial dispute: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) reaffirms the strong support of the United States for the peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and pledges continued efforts to facilitate a multilateral, peaceful process to resolve these disputes;

(2) deplores the use of force by naval and maritime security vessels from China in the South China Sea;

(3) calls on all parties to the territorial dispute to refrain from threatening force or using force to assert territorial claims; and

(4) supports the continuation of operations by the United States Armed Forces in support of freedom of navigation rights in international waters and air space in the South China Sea.


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