Malaysia rebukes China’s claim that Kuala Lumpur had no right to seek the establishment of its continental shelf in the northern part of the South China Sea waters, taking a new turn of events to a battle of diplomatic notes to the United Nations between claimants in the South China Sea dispute.
On July 29th, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government stressed that its application was fully within its rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
This Week in Asia said on Thursday that the Malaysian government made an unusually strong statement by rejecting “in its entirety the contents” of an earlier note by Beijing on December 12th.
Malaysia made a submission to an Unclos body asserting that there were areas of overlapping claims in areas where China was seeking to delimit its territory, to which the Chinese government responded in its note of December 12th stating the Malaysian submission had “seriously infringed China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea.”
Malaysia said in its latest response that it rejected “China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’.”
The Malaysian note verbale said that the Chinese assertions were “contrary to [Unclos] and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the convention.”
The contents of the note verbale reflected Malaysia’s long-held rejection of China’s “nine-dash line” even though its wording had been surprising, according to a source familiar with Malaysia’s historic position on the sea dispute.
Nearly all of the South China Sea waters were claimed by China as part of its controversial “nine-dash line”. Other claimant countries challenging this boundary set by China are the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia together with Taiwan.
The Chinese boundary encroaches on their territorial waters as set out by Unclos according to the Southeast Asian claimants, while Taiwan seen by Beijing as a rebellion province, has a similar claim as the Chinese mainland.
Indonesia insists it is an “interested party” but not a claimant in the dispute, as the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone of its Natuna Islands is within China’s nine-dash line. Similar diplomatic notes were issued by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, the United States and Australia since last December which is when the first exchange between Malaysia and China took place.
Notes verbales are unsigned notes submitted to the UN secretary general with a request that they are circulated to other member states, even though the notes are not normal diplomatic notes between nations.
Robert Beckman, the head of the Ocean Law and Policy programme at the Centre for International Law in Singapore, the Asean member states’ notes stated that “claims to rights and jurisdiction and to maritime zones in the South China Sea must be in accordance with Unclos, to which they and China are parties” in a commentary back in June 10th.
Beckman wrote “They further state that China has asserted rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea that are not consistent with Unclos.” A 2016 arbitral ruling in which the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (PCA) – in a case brought by the Philippines against China – ruled that Beijing had no historic claims in the South China Sea.
However, China did not participate in the proceedings and does not recognize the decision. The United States which is a non-claimant and not even a party to Unclos, recently made reference to and fully endorsed the PCA ruling.
31st July 18:30
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