RIVAL CLAIMS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA Reporter: Jose Angelito P. Angeles
Geographical Background GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND
The South China Sea • Known traditionally to the Chinese simply as the Nai Hai or Southern Sea, and seen by them as a single, uninterrupted sea linking China with the west.
The Four Principal Island-Atoll Groups • Pratas Island and Reefs (Tung-sha ch’ün-tao) • Paracel Islands (His-sha ch’ün-tao) • Macclesfield Bank • Spratly Islands (Nan-sha ch’ün-tao)
Pratas Island • LOCATION: 170 nautical miles (315 kms) southeast of Hong Kong; 240 nautical miles (445 km) southwest of Taiwan; and about 269 nautical miles (500 km) north of the Paracels. • Consist of one island and two small banks (North and South Vereker)
Pratas Island • Pratas Island and reefs are generally recognized as Chinese territory. • The island was occupied by the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty • The island is presently occupied by Taiwan. • The matter of “technical sovereignty” is a matter of dispute between Taiwan and China.
Macclesfield Bank • LOCATION: about 100 km east of the Paracels • Macclesfield Bank proper is actually a wholly submerged atoll, the reef and banks of which constitute a major shipping hazard.
Macclesfield Bank • Chinese claims of Macclesfield Bank include several shoals and reefs far beyond the commonly accepted western designation of the bank. • These include two shoals: Scarborough Shoal (disputed by China and the Philippines) and Truro Shoal.
The Paracels • LOCATION: 720 nautical miles (1334 km) from Taiwan, 380 nautical miles (704 km) from Hong Kong, 150 nautical miles (278 km) from the southern coast of Hainan Island, and 240 nautical miles (445 km) from Da Nang, Vietnam
The Paracels • The archipelago consists of two main groups of islets: The Amphitrite and Crescent Groups. • Richly covered with vegetation (Papaya, bread-fruit and coconuts are the main cultegens) • Principal source of guano • Traditional fishing grounds for Hainan fishermen for centuries.
The Spratlys • LOCATION (by nearest-point measures): about 100 km west of Palawan Island (Philippines), 160 km west of the Sarawak coast (Malaysia), 650 km east of the Vietnamese coast, and about 1,000 km from Hainan Island (China) to the northernmost edge of the Spratlys
The Spratlys • The Spratlys constitute at least 190 barren islets and partially submerged reefs and rocks covering an approximately 150,000 square mile.
The Spratlys • The Spratlys are geologically separated from the continental shelves of China by a 3,000-meter trench to the north, and from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia by the East Palawan Trough. • The area is poorly surveyed and marked as Dangerous Ground on navigational charts.
The Spratlys: Claims • China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim the entire areas. • The Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei claim some parts. • All except Brunei occupy islets to support their claims
1876-1877 • China’s first ambassador to Britain, Kao Sung-Tao is reported to have stated that the Paracels belong to china, and an implicit claim to the Spratlys might be dated to 1883 when the Chi’ng government officially protested a German state-sponsored expedition to the islands.
June 26, 1887 • The Convention respecting the Delimitation of the Frontier between China and Tonkin was signed. • The Convention was the earliest official Chinese claim on the islands of South China Sea and the first international agreement in that regard. • Since then, china argued, the delimitation law provided by the Convention clearly inferred that the Paracels and Spratlys were part of China and recognized by such by France.
1902 • Three warships from the Canton fleet, under the direction of Admiral Li Chun and Vice General Wu Ching-yung, succeeded in planting imperial flags and stone tablets commemorating the arrival of formal Chinese authority
1912-1932 • During the first 20 years of the Republic of China various efforts were made to confirm China’s interest in and claim over the Paracels. • Most of those efforts focused on different merchant groups engaged in the exploitation of guano/ phosphate reserves of the Paracels.
1928 • An official Chinese government report states that the southernmost delineation of Chinese territory is the XiSha Islands (Paracels), there is no mention of the Spratly Islands being Chinese
French-Japanese Dispute over the Spratlys • APRIL, 1930 – France declared formal possession of Spratly Islands • China did not protest; Japan filed formal protest. • Japan considered the occupation an infringement upon the rights of Japanese commercial interest in the islands, as the Spratlys had been occupied and mined for years by various Japanese phosphate companies.
Sino- French Dispute over the Paracels • DECEMBER 4, 1931 – France filed an official protest and note with the Chinese legation in Paris in response to Chinese efforts to open the Paracels for guano mining.
The French Claim • The claim was based on the incorporation of the Paracels by King Gia Long in 1816 and the construction of a pagoda and stone tablet on one of the islands by King Ming Mang in 1835 • France claimed the Paracels for its Indo-Chinese Empire and on June 15, 1932, the Paracels was incorporated into Thua Tien Province and henceforth known as the Delegation des Paracels.
Japanese Expansion in the South China Sea • 1937- Start of the Sino-Japanese War • February 28, 1939 – Hainan fell to the Japanese (it sealed off the northeastern edges of the Guld of Tonkin). Later, French Indochina fell to the Japanese. • March 1, 1939- Paracels fell to the Japanese • March 30, 1939 – The Japs occupied the Spratlys • April 9, 1939- Japane declared complete occupation of Pratas Island, the Paracels and the Spratlys. • December 8, 1941 – Japanese attacked the Philippines • May, 1942 – The Philippines fell to the Japanese.
Post-War Period • August 1945 – Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers • 1946 – Chinese concerns about French movements into the Spratlys resulted in the first post-war Chinese naval expedition to the islands • July 1946 - China (ROC) sent a battleship on patrol of the South China Sea to take possession of the islands.
Chinese Assertiveness • December 1946 – China (ROC) sent a naval task force to take formal possession of the Paracels and Spratlys. • January 1947- China (ROC) declared formal occupation and incorporation of the Paracels • France officially objected to the Chinese occupation of the Paracels. The French occupied Pattle Island and there re-established their old administrative center.
Chinese Assertiveness • December 1, 1947 – China (ROC) announces the formal incorporation of all four island groups in the South China Sea into Kwantung Province. • December 12, 1947 – The first Chinese naval administrator for the Spratlys arrived to take up his post on Itu Aba Island. • France issued no protest
Post-War Developments • 1945 – Vietnam’s Communist leader Ho Chi Mihn declared Vietnamese independence; French re-colonization of Indo-China was met with stiff resistance. • 1945-1954 – First Vietnam War – Vietnam’s War of Independence. • December 1949 – The government of China (ROC) retreated to the island of Taiwan after the Communists took over mainland China.
Post-War Developments • May-July 1950 – China (ROC) forces in Hainan and the Paracels were withdrawn to Taiwan.; Theirs positions were immediately assumed by units of the People’s Liberation Army (Red China) • July 1950 – China (ROC) base on Itu Aba was abandoned. • October 1950 – France officially ceded control of the Paracels to Vietnam, though some French troops were “intermittently stationed” in the islands until 1956.
The San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951) • Signed on September 8, 1951 • Article 2 of the said treaty provides: “Japan renounces all rights, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.” • However, the article did not entail devolution or reversion of the territory to one or another previous owner or claimant.
The Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty (1952) • China (ROC) negotiated a separate peace treaty with Japan. • Signed on April 29, 1952. • Article 2 of the said treaty were almost synonymous with those found in the San Francisco Treaty.
San Francisco Treaty of 1951: Japan renounces all rights, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.” The Sino-Japanese Treaty: “it is recognized that under Article 2 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed at the city of San Francisco in the United States of America on September 8, 1951, Japab has renounced all right, title and claim to Taiwan (Formosa), and P’eng-hu (Pescadores) as well as the Spratly and Paracel Islands. The Two Treaties
The Paracels (1950s) • South Vietnam (Saigon) held control of the Crescent Group. • The Red Chinese (China, PROC) controlled the Amphitrite Group.
The Spratlys: 1950s • The withdrawal of ROC forces from Itu Aba Island rendered the Spratlys effectively deserted. • The Islands,however, were continued to be used by Hainan, Vietnamese, and other fishermen.
The Cloma Incident • 1947- Thomas Cloma, a Filipino businessman and lawyer, claimed the discovery of the Spratly Islands and starts a settlement. • 1951- The San Francisco Treaty is passed. The Philippines claim that this treaty nullifies all previous ownership of the islands, because Japan does not cede the territory a country. • 1956- Cloma declares that the islands are a "protectorate" called Kalaya'an or Freedomland
The Kalayaans • MAY 15, 1956 – Cloma informed Philippine Vice President and Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Garcia that he had claimed the Kalayaan Islands, and were then in the process of surveying and occupying the islands.
The Kalayaans • Cloma based the claim on “right of discovery and/or occupation. • Cloma’s claim included most of the islands of the Spratlys, namely: Spratly Island, Itu Aba, Nam Yit, and Thitu as well as such important reefs and shoals as North Danger Reef, Mariveles Reef and Investigation Shoal.
The Kalayaans • “Insofar as the Department of Foreign Affairs is concerned, it regards the islands, islets, coral reefs, shoals, and sand cays comprised within what you called “Freedomland,” with the exclusion of those belonging to the seven-island group known internationally as the Spratlys, as res nullius…which means , in other words, that they are open to economic exploitation and settlement by Filipino nationals, who have as much right under international law as nationals of any other country to carry on such activities,so long as the exclusive sovereignty of any other country over them has not been established….”
The Kalayaans • June 1956 – Saigon and Taipei issued several stern protests • China (PROC) issued its own protest through the New China News Agency and declared Cloma’s claim of discovery so much ‘nonsense’ • June 9, 1956 – France informed the Philippine Government that the former regarded the Spratlys as French territory, for these islands, had never been ceded to South Vietnam. • The Philippine Government quickly informed Saigon and Taipei that the Philippines had made no official claim on the area.
The Kalayaans • July 11, 1956 – China (ROC) re-occupied and maintained a garrison on Itu Aba. • Saigon sent a destroyer to patrol the Spratlys and reached Spratly Island in August 1956 • 1960-1963- ROC teams were dispatched to occupy and erect boundary markers on Thi Tu, Nam Yit and other islands in the Spratlys. • 1968- Filipino troops are stationed at Kota, Pagasa, and Parola • !969- Taipei announced that regular mail delivery system now linked Kaoshiung and Itu Aba.
1970s • Global Oil Crisis • Vietnam War • Re-examination of US Foreign Policy towards China, PROC (hereinafter referred simply as China) • The deterioration of China, ROC’s (hereinafter referred as Taiwan) international position.
Enter the Philippines • July 9, 1971 – Philippine House Minority Leader and Palawan Congressman Ramon Mitra, Jr. reported the “discovery” of a large ROC garrison on Itu Aba and charged that ROC patrol vessels had fired upon an unarmed philippine craft operating in the Spratlys, namely his own sport fishing vessel.
Enter the Philippines • July 1971- Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos announced the Philippines’ formal claim to the islands and waters of the Spratlys. • President Marcos noted that these islands “are regarded as res nullius and may be acquired according to the modes of acquisition recognized under international law, among which are occupation and effective administration.”
The Philippine Claim • President Marcos reaffirmed the argument expressed by Vice Pres. Garcia in 1956 that the Spratly Islands was to be divided into two separate entities: a core group of islands including Itu Aba and Spratly Island said to be under the de facto trusteeship of the Allied Powers, and a group of some 53 islands known as Kalayaan unilaterally declared to be as res nullius.
The Philippine Claim • April 1972 – Kalayaan was officially made part of Palawan, to be administered as single municipality. • 1974- The Philippines occupy five features : Nanshan Island ( Lawak), Flat Island (Patag), West York Island (Likas), Northeast Cay (Parola) and Thitu Island ( Pagasa). • June 11, 1978- President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1596 annexing the Kalayaan Islands.
The Philippine Claim • 1978- The Philippines occupy eight features. The additions are Lankiam Cay (Panata), Loaita Island (Kota), and Commodore Reed (Rizal) • 1982- A public statement is made by Prime Minister Caesar Virata that the Spratly Islands will be defended militarily with reference to the Vietnam occupation.