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China, U.S. navies try to resolve maritime discords (05/15/09)

BEIJING, May 15 -- The Chinese and US navies have been searching for ways to "alleviate disagreements" over international law on maritime rights, a senior military source said Thursday, after a US navy commander expressed keenness to resolve the issue.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted the two militaries still disagree on how to interpret the international law concerning maritime waters.

But both sides have "expressed their views candidly in the latest round of military exchange".

He said that in the latest exchange, US naval operations chief Admiral Gary Roughead and Chinese Navy chief Admiral Wu Shengli held talks in Qingdao last month during a sea parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Navy.

But some experts said the US navy will not stop spying activities in the western part of the Pacific, and reconciliation at sea may not be reached easily.

"The US has always wanted to maintain its influence in Asia through military means. It has conducted military activities around the Taiwan Straits and the East China Sea, and now wants to expand to the South China Sea," said Professor Yuan Peng, an expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

He added that the US is keen to see Southeast Asian countries in territorial disputes with China so that it can retain its influence in those countries and contain China's rise.

Wang Hanling, a researcher on maritime affairs and international law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Sino-US disputes at sea mainly arise from the different interpretation of items related to the "freedoms of navigation and overflight in an exclusive economic zone", prescribed in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"The US insists that freedom of navigation includes its current military activities in China's EEZ," Wang said.

But for the use of military force, the UN law has a specific rider: "States shall refrain from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the principles of international law embodied in the UN Charter."

This means the freedom of navigation should not be abused at the cost of violating the laws and regulations of the coastal state, Wang said.

US Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said on Tuesday that the US is attempting to overcome disagreements with China after "frank discussions" between high-level US officials and their Chinese counterparts over recent confrontations at seas.

The two nations do not see eye to eye on the issue of maritime rights, but "we're going to have to work our way through it ... so they don't continue to escalate," Willard said on the sidelines of a regional naval conference in Singapore.

"We interpret the legal aspect of international law differently," he said. "We're attempting to overcome the disagreement."

Willard said US ships would continue to navigate in the contested waters. "The UN Law of the Sea permits military activity inside exclusive economic zones, and we'll continue to do that."

AP and Zhang Xin contributed to the story

(Source: China Daily)

 

 


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