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Jun 03, 2020 / 09:36

US protests China’s unlawful maritime claims at the UN

The US is the fifth countries protesting China's claims in the South China Sea.

The US Mission to the United Nations (UN) has sent a circular note to head of the UN to oppose China’s claims in the South China Sea that Washington calls “unlawful”, the mission said on its website on Monday.

 China's claims violate international law. Graphic: Lindsey Burrows

In a letter sent to Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, Kelly Craft, US Ambassador, US Representative to the UN, said the US “rejects these maritime claims as inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.”

“I request that you circulate the enclosed letter to all UN Member States as a document of the General Assembly under Agenda Item 74(a) and of the Security Council, and that you post it on the web page of the Office of Legal Affairs, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea,” said the letter.

Washington sent the letter regarding Note Verbale No. CML/14/2019 sent by the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China on December 12, 2019 in response to the submission by Malaysia to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) dated December 12, 2019.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet: “We reject these claims as unlawful and dangerous. Member States must unite to uphold international law and freedom of the seas.”

The US is the fifth country to protest China’s claims in the South China Sea following Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Four those Southeast Asian countries sent circular notes to the UN between December 2019 and late May 2020.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam are among countries that, along with China, have claims in the South China Sea. Indonesia is not among the claimant countries, but in early 2020 and 2016, tensions flared up between Jakarta and Beijing over the presence of Chinese fishing boats swarming in South China Sea waters near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands.

China unlawfully claims about 90% of the South China Sea, including the archipelago of islands, reefs and atolls known as the Spratlys.

While China has historically preferred to handle all disputes bilaterally, the resumption of negotiations between Beijing and ASEAN still holds promise for reinvigorating a multilateral framework toward greater cooperation and conflict resolution.

The US is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 while China and Vietnam are.