Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, the People’s Republic of China has been trying to push its illegitimate, expansionist interests in the South China Sea. Due to the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic, two of the United States Navy aircraft carriers in the Pacific- the USS Roosevelt and USS Ronald Reagan got docked due to several Wuhan virus cases on board.
Beijing has been harassing other stakeholders in the region, causing serious violations of the international maritime law, namely the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, particularly by intruding into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of other countries into the region, something that Chinese warships have been pursuing that much more vigorously amidst the ongoing Pandemic.
The Philippines has been, for instance, protesting against creation of two districts in the South China Sea- a move aimed at administering Islands in the disputed maritime region, as a part of China’s expansionist strategy in the South China Sea.
Philipine Navy has also alleged that China pointed a radar gun at one of its Navy warships amidst the ongoing Pandemic as the mighty Dragon is trying to escalate matters with its two main rivals- the Philippines and Vietnam in the backdrop of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Vietnam has also lodged protest against China’s decision to form administrative districts in the Sea, as Beijing recently announced that it had set up new administrative districts on the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
Beijing calls these islands Xisha and Nansha, and they will be under the control of Sansha, a Chinese city created in 2012 to assert Beijing’s claims in the maritime region. Recently, China also ordered the Hai Yang Di Zhi 8, accompanied by six China Coast Guard (CGC) ships to move into Vietnam’s Exclusive Zone, merely months after a similar move had triggered a tense stand-off between the two neighbours.
Moreover, the Chinese survey ship, that is, Hai Yang Do Zhi 8, came as close as merely 92 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam’s Binh Dinh province.
China has also been getting quite confrontational with Malaysia as well, leading to a standoff between the Chinese and Malaysian vessels that has been going on for months, and the Haiyang Dizhi 8, a Chinese research ship was found conducting a survey close to an exploration vessel operated by Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas, last week.
Now, two US warships have- USS America and USS Bunker Hill have also entered the fray near Malaysia. What Beijing wants to do is to is to pursue its “nine-dash line” theory that encircles as much as 90 per cent of the disputed waterways running as far as 2,000 kilometres from mainland China.
The line runs as far as few hundred kilometres from the three other stakeholders in the region, namely the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, and Beijing maintains that all land features or the artificial Islands that it has set up in the area are its “historical maritime rights.”
China’s own claims exceed far beyond the permitted limits prescribed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and go deep into the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of other countries- a serious violation of the Convention.
Beijing doesn’t even respect International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in South China Sea and the Jinping regime maintains that China’s ‘territorial sovereignty and marine rights’ which Beijing defines for itself are not affected.
Even in Taiwan, China has started threatening the little island with its worrying military exercises and movement of a strike group led by a Chinese aircraft carrier sailing very closely to the island with whom China shares a hostile relation.
While China wanted to bully other stakeholders in the strategic waterways in order to pursue what it describes as its “historical maritime rights”, other stakeholders including the United States have entered the disputed Waters.
While American warships have entered South China Sea, the Australian Navy too has teamed up with the United States. A US Navy statement mentioned how the American and Australian frigates sailed together. The stakeholders in the region, that is, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia have been critical of Chinese expansionism in the region, other stakeholders like the US and Australia have sent a strong deterrent message to Beijing. China started aggressively amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, but other stakeholders are not going to shy away in teaming up against the mighty Dragon within the strategic waterways.