Exclusive Economic Zone in Major Media and Academic Journals in 2011: South China Sea and Other Seas, by Yearn Hong Choi

Tuesday, 10 January 2012 08:48 quanghung299
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Introduction

Every coastal nation attempts to expand its sea territory by extending or expanding exclusive economic zone to the maximum possible. The EEZ was a new concept and a specific legal regime in the Law of the Sea Convention, building on the “exclusive fishing zones” and “fishing conservation zones” already in existence. The EEZ regime in the Convention was primarily aimed at living resources of the waters superjacent to the seabed. Although Article 56 (1) (a) stipulates that in the EEZ, “the coastal State has sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil,” Article 56 (3) affirms that the rights set out in this article with respect to the seabed and subsoil shall be exercised in accordance with Part VI.” The EEZ is and must be an environmental conservation concept: However, it is  far from such a novel concept in reality. It is considered or interpreted as the coastal State’s privilege to claim its sovereign sea. Rights without obligations or duties have been claimed, rather blindly. This is something pathetically wrong or very ridiculous. Under the circumstances, 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone has been rather abused.

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Rampant exploration and exploitation of fishing and oil, gas and other precious metals have been made possible by constantly changing advanced technology and endless human greed for the nation’s wealth. Protection of ocean environment and conservation of resources have not been balanced or corresponded at all to the exploitation and exploration attempts of the deep sea resources. Beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone, a state may claim a continental shelf that is a “natural prolongation” of its territory for up to 350 nautical miles. Who knows? 500 or longer nautical miles will be argued in not so distant future.

 

This research work aims at finding of the intellectual focus and locus of the exclusive economic zone in the year of 2011—January 1 to August 31. What has been discussed on the exclusive economic zone in relations to issues on the seas and oceans? What has been proposed to bring peaceful sea and ocean and to protect the ocean environment and conservation of ocean and marine resources? Data base of this research work is ProQuest which is available in the public library system in the United States which collects 80 academic journals and major newspapers.

 

What is ProQuest data base?

Following is the information of ProQuest in Google:

 

ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company has forged a 70-year reputation as a gateway to the world’s knowledge – from dissertations to governmental and cultural archives to news, in all its forms. Its role is essential to libraries and other organizations whose missions depend on the delivery of complete, trustworthy information.

ProQuest’s massive information pool, built through partnerships with content creators, is navigated through technological innovations that enable users to quickly find just the right information. The company is currently rolling out the all-new ProQuest® platform, which moves beyond navigation to empower researchers to use, create, and share content—accelerating research productivity.

An energetic and fast-growing organization, in 2009 it launched the pioneering Summon™ web-scale discovery service, a boon to academic libraries worldwide. In 2010 ProQuest expanded into corporate and government markets, launching the ProQuest Dialog™ service and acquiring Congressional Information Services and University Publications of America. In early 2011 it acquired ebrary, expanding ProQuest’s content base to include e-books and adding to the technology expertise resident across the enterprise, which also includes such units as Serials Solutions®, RefWorks-COS™, and Bowker®.

 

Exclusive Economic Zone

 

Articles containing a key word, exclusive economic zone, have been numerous in ProQuest database. So this researcher limited the articles to those appeared in the year 2011. EEZ has created more boundary disputes and tense international relations in South China Sea than any other sea. Exclusive economic zone means just an extension of territorial sea to many coastal nations: 200 nautical miles of EEZ have been considered as the nation’s own territory, because it is an exclusive economic zone. Economic zone means every meaningful thing in the sea from the nation’s coastline. Economic means virtually everything. Overlapping EEZ is not to be peacefully resolved by two nations or more than two nations sharing the small sea in South China Sea and East China Sea or Yellow Sea. Creating EEZ may be one of the worst concepts in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Interpretation can be different from one nation to another, originated from US President Harry Truman’s executive order. Understanding current issues and problems of EEZ can start with a review of major scholarly and journalistic articles containing a key word, EEZ, in the year of 2011.

 

Content analysis of EEZ articles makes 10 groupings of the subjects below:

1.     South China Sea and China’s naval power

2.     Ocean Environment and Conservation

3.     Indian Ocean

4.     Korea

5.     Japan

6.     The United States and the Caribbean Sea

7.     Pacific Small Islands

8.     The Mediterranean Sea

9.     The Atlantic Ocean on the African small islands

10.   The Arctic Sea

 

The South China Sea

 

The most frequent EEZ articles in ProQuest were on the conflict and tense situation between China and ASEAN nations mainly and those among the ASEAN nations, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. 43 articles were recorded in ProQuest data base from January 1, 2011 to September last, 2011. China provoked Vietnam when the Chinese fishing boats under the disguise of the Chinese Navy destroyed the Petro Vietnam’s survey of undersea oil and gas fields. Vietnam determined to go to war against China. Rhetoric of war did not go to the actual war, but South China Sea drew great attention from the world in 2011. China warned the United States not to be involved in South China Sea. The two superpowers interpreted EEZ differently: the US claimed that EEZ meant the freedom of navigation, including the US Naval ships, but China claimed EEZ was its own exclusive sea. It was and is a contradiction to see that Chinese naval ships freely navigated other nations’ EEZ. EEZ space was still different from one nation to another; There was no consensus between and among the nations that shared the small sea, the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

 

The China-Vietnam conflicts have been well known over the years and covered by major media in the world. In addition to China-Vietnam conflicts, the China-the Philippines conflicts were also reported in Asian Pulse in June 2011 (June 2 and June 3). Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario warned that “any new construction by China in the vicinity of the uninhabited Iroquois Bank in the South China Sea was a clear violation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of Cooperation” and complained that Chinese marine surveillance vessels were navigating well within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles EEZ. Chinese military vessels reportedly fired shots at Philippines fishing vessels at Jackson Atoll, 140 nautical miles from Palawan on February 15, 2011. In March 2011, Chinese navy patrol boats allegedly harassed a Philippines-sanctioned oil exploration vessel at the Reed Bank, which is part of Palawan Province and not of the Spratly’s. In May 2011, MIG fighters believed to be from China allegedly harassed Philippines Air Force reconnaissance aircraft patrolling over Reed Bank. Malaya added that China’s structure built on the reef in the Spratly’s was a military one, not shelter for fishermen. Lack of trust between China and its neighboring nations was noteworthy.

 

China’s increasing military budget in double digit and abrasive diplomacy stirred its neighboring nations in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. China and India’s rivalry in the Indian Ocean was also discussed in a couple of major articles. The tension in the South China Sea is not an arcane legal issue, but a near and dangerous threat to the global economy and to the regional ecology. The sea lines of communications through the South China Sea connect Europe to Asia, making the sea one of the busiest waterways in the world. Almost half of the world shipping passes across it, and from Middle East a significant portion of Northeast Asia’s oil.

 

The South China Sea is also rich in hydrocarbons in various forms, and the full exploitation of these resources is hampered by unresolved boundaries and blatant military intimidation. Lastly, because of overfishing, there is a marked decline in the overcall fish catch, inspiring fishermen to use more aggressive techniques.

 

Some ASEAN nations proposed name change of the South China Sea to the Southeast Asia Sea. Ben Bland reported the name of the sea in his Financial Times article on June 21, 2011. South China Sea has been East Sea to the Vietnam people, West Philippine Sea to the Filipinos and South Sea to Chinese people. The South China Sea has been used so long by Western map makers without the Asian people’s consent and protest. It might be originated from the mapmakers in Europe who was not conscious of its probable long impact afterward. Naming of the sea is becoming sensitive to ASEAN nations, as it has become a sensitive issue of Sea of Japan to the Korean people on the sea between Japan and Korea. The National Geographic has accepted a dual name, Sea of Japan/East Sea. Some proposed a neutral sea name such as Blue Sea or Green Sea on the sea between the two nations.

 

Spratly Islands rich in hydrocarbons were the area of conflicts among the ASEAN nations, too. It is a sea space most complicated so that it seems impossible to resolve the conflicts among the nations sharing the South China Sea. The main headline of the Washington Post on September 18, 2011 is: Disputed Territory. It summarizes the conflicts in one sentence: China’s thirst for South China Sea oil puts it at odds with other nations’ claims (Higgins, 2011).

 

Searching for the solution to the South China Sea conflicts has been attempted by ASEAN-China declaration. Outside the ASEAN-China Declaration, I have noticed one academic proposal. Mark J. Valencia, Jon Van Dyke and Noel Ludwig at the University of Hawaii East-West Center proposed a common sea ground of all claimants, sharing the resources. Their single purpose regime is the South China Sea Institute for Marine Resources Management, conducting a joint survey and assessment of the mineral and hydrocarbon potential, and cooperatively implementing marine safety and surveillance measures. They also propose to create Spratly Coordinating Agency to manage the common area and its resources. Their product-sharing proposal is 50 percent for China and Taiwan and another 50 percent for the ASEAN nations. This may be challengeable by the ASEAN nations, including Vietnam. They discussed each claimant’s strength and weakness of the Spratly Islands (Valencia, et al, 1997).

 

Sam Bateman pointed out highly complex “wicked problems” that have defied solution and proposed a regional forum to solve the problems. These include different interpretations of the Law of the Sea underpinning regional maritime security, the lack of good order at sea, numerous conflicting claims to maritime jurisdiction, the implications of increased naval activity in the region and the lack of agreed maritime boundaries. His proposal is creating an Asian Peace Research Institute modeled after the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute to promote more independent thinking and greater cooperation. He emphasizes that the plan for action to implement the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2011-1015). He points out that little progress has been achieved, though (Bateman, 2011).

 

The 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) has set possible transformation of the area into a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZOPFF/C) through sustained consultations and dialogue. ZOPFF/C provides a framework for segregating the disputed territorial features among the nations surrounding the South China Sea. However, the spirit to achieve the goal of the DOC and ZOPFF/C has not been seen yet. They exist as “empty” promises or rhetoric.

 

All in all, the DOC, University of Hawaii East-West Center proposal and Bateman’s article should be guiding lights for the South China Sea peace and prosperity.

 

 Asia Pulse reported a story, a very interesting story to me, on July 28, 2011. This story reminds me of the South China Sea situation very well.

 

In the summer of 2011, Korean workers have been trying to raise the 50,905-ton bulk carrier, which sank in April after hitting a reef near Ieodo, some 150 kilometers southwest of Cheju Island. China sent patrol boats to the site last month and early this month and requested that they stop the work in its EEZ, according to foreign ministers officials. China has demanded South Korea halt its work to hoist a sunken commercial ship near the submerged rock of Ieodo in the East China Sea that Beijing claims as its territory, officials in Seoul said.

(continuing)

 

Read full text of this paper here


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