Photo: Herat Firefight
Photo: Airborne Access

Chinese agression shows Law of the Sea treaty is worthless

I've been writing about the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for years. This sovereignty stripping, wealth transferring treaty has periodically reared its ugly head since Ronald Reagan was president, and its ratification is still sought by today's political, media, and even military elite.

But aside from the fact that we will be sacrificing our Naval superiority and paying exorbitant fees to the UN for mining our own resources, the underlying principles of the treaty - an internationally agreed-upon "constitution" and rule of law for the world's oceans - sound great.

Problem is, China - who signed UNCLOS in 1996 - is claiming islands surrounded by oil and natural gas deposits. Islands they appear to have no valid claim to. Islands that already belong to other nations.

Chinese naval vessels have targeted a Japanese destroyer and helicopters near the Senkaku Islands. When Japanese officials complained, the Chinese incredibly blamed them for taking a warlike posture. For months, the Chinese have maintained a delicate standoff with the Philippines in the Scarborough Shoals, sending boats 500 nautical miles to harvest fish 124 miles form the Philippine coast.

From The US Report:

If the UNCLOS actually was worth the paper it was written on, then there would be a legal and naval deterrent to any illegal activity by the Chinese. But corruption, not law, rules the UN.

In 1947, the Chinese government claimed virtually all of the South China Sea in what has become known as the “Nine-Dash Line.” China, a member nation of UNCLOS, refuses to explain the details on how they reached their far-fetching boundary.

A U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks states that a senior Chinese government maritime law expert admittedly did not know of any historical basis behind the “Nine-Dash Line.”

China knows that if they open the door to international scrutiny, their extravagant claim and ambiguous evidence would not survive and any illusions of a legitimacy would vanish. And so would the massive deposits of oil and natural gas surrounding these desolate islands the Chinese want exclusive access to.

The Philippines even offered to settle the matter of Scarborough Shoal in a UNCLOS tribunal, but the Chinese have stated they will not participate in any of the treaty's dispute resolution mechanisms – or abide by any UNCLOS ruling.

The Chinese claim to seek bilateral talks because they know that the Philippines will refuse, and the issue will remain unsettled. The Chinese interest is to keep things exactly as they are.

Diplomacy works great when one side has significant leverage over the other, both parties can find common ground, or if both parties at least wish to avoid war. The problem is, the Chinese political and military leadership has been telling its people to prepare for war. They have the economy, resources, military and naval forces, and the national will to make it happen.

And who is going to stand in their way?

China can be aggressive because they know that the UN is only out to get paid, President Obama's “soft power” is big on soft and short on power, and no other nation is capable of doing anything about it.

The United States has mutual defense pacts with both Japan and the Philippines, but who knows whether President Obama will honor them? Not so long ago, our Navy was continually conducting "freedom of navigation" cruises to deter this kind of aggression. Just our occasional presence alone was enough. Now, our diplomats can only offer empty and meaningless platitudes to assure our Pacific allies that we have their back. While that may be enough for the administration's sycophantic following in the U.S. media, it certainly isn't going to fool the Chinese, who live under the old rule of "you are only as strong as your reputation to back it up."

I would love to live in a world where an international law of the sea actually worked and the world didn't expect the United States to solve all their problems with our blood and treasure. But whether or not China starts World War III, let's at least realize that toothless, corrupt treaties are no replacement for naval superiority.