China is mulling a new law that would require submersive naval vehicles to travel above surface and report its movements to authorities and report their movements to government authorities. In other words, it’s asking submarines not to act like submarines, which is hilarious coming from a habitual maritime law violator like China.
Here’s an excerpt from the draft of the proposed rule changes, via Reuters:
Foreign submersibles, passing though (sic) territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China, should travel on the surface, raise their national flag, and report to Chinese maritime management administrations,” the news service cited the draft revision as saying, without giving details.
The draft makes no mention of the South China Sea, but that it is almost certainly the reason why Beijing is seeking these changes. Washington and Beijing spared briefly in December when the Chinese Navy seized a U.S. Navy drone that was actually nothing more than an ocean glider, as Foxtrot Alpha reported at the time; China eventually gave it back.
The comical part about this rule revision is that China is hardly a nation that respects maritime law. We have reported extensively on China’s artificial island buildup in the disputed territory that the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Japan have also laid claim to. These smaller nations have also complained for decades that China has used its military might to bully its influence over the sea.
Last summer, an international tribunal at the Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines’ territory dispute against China and rejected Beijing’s claim of historical rights to the sea, ruling its actions have caused environmental damage, and endangered the Philippine’s ships and fishing and oil exploration.
Here is a breakdown of that ruling, per the New York Times:
The main issue before the panel was the legality of China’s claim to waters within a “nine-dash line” that appears on official Chinese maps and encircles as much as 90 percent of the South China Sea, an area the size of Mexico. The Philippines had asked the tribunal to find the claim to be in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both China and the Philippines have ratified.
In its decision, the tribunal said any historic rights to the sea that China had previously enjoyed “were extinguished” by the treaty, which lays out rules for drawing zones of control over the world’s oceans based on distances to coastlines. The panel added that while China had used islands in the sea in the past, it had never exercised exclusive authority over the waters.
The panel also concluded that several disputed rocks and reefs in the South China Sea were too small for China to claim control of economic activities in the waters around them. As a result, it found, China was engaged in unlawful behavior in Philippine waters, including activities that had aggravated the dispute.
The tribunal cited China’s construction of a large artificial island on an atoll known as Mischief Reef. China has built a military airstrip, naval berths and sports fields on the island, but the tribunal ruled that it was in Philippine waters.
China vowed to ignore it and they clearly have been.
Of course, it is one thing if China is making its maritime revisions to counter the America’s naval influence in the area, which is totally reasonable. China is the world power in that area; they’re within their rights to not have the U.S. encroach on their territory. But when it comes to smaller nations like the Philippines, or Vietnam? Come on.
You would think Beijing would at least honor its neighbors’ maritime borders by not building islands inside of them before hypocritically asking that other nations respect its boundaries. But that seems like it may be asking the Chinese a tad bit too much.