China inconsistent in East Sea dispute: conference

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Inconsistencies in China's claims over the East Sea show its internal conflicts and confusion over the issue, experts said Tuesday (April 26) at a conference in Hanoi.

Speaking at the 2nd National East Sea Conference convened by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, they said there have  been several developments since the first conference was held two years ago.

The regional dispute has snowballed into an international issue: it has been discussed at multilateral forums and also at ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meetings.

This has seen a determination emerge, to advance from the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) to a Code of Conduct (COC) that parties to the East Sea dispute have agreed to abide by.

A new legal debate began in May 2009 with the United Nations getting involved, after China claimed 80 percent of the East Sea with a nine-dash U-shaped line on a widely rejected map.

Recently, the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China's "nine-dash line" territorial claim over the East Sea, a month before President Aquino's planned state visit to Beijing. The protest, dated April 5, was posted by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on April 8.

The note said that China's claim on "relevant waters, seabed and subsoil" related to the islands the Philippines called the Kalayaan Island Group, has no basis under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

On Tuesday, conference participants noted that China, in response to the Philippines's move, made no mention of the nine-dash line, saying only that "China's Nansha (Vietnam's Truong Sa) Islands are fully entitled to territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf."

They said China's two notes contradicted each other, showing that the country did not have a reasonable explanation for its nine-dash line claim.

Experts also discussed four future scenarios for East Sea disputes. First, the situation improves with all parties, especially China, following up on pledges of building an East Sea of peace and cooperation. Second, the situation stays unchanged. Third, the situation become worse with more disputes than cooperation but it does not develop into a large-scale conflict. Fourth, the dispute escalates into large-scale conflict.

Researchers at the conference said many elements could affect the East Sea situation, including the attitude and conduct of  China, the strength of Vietnam, involvement of the international community, including the US, and mutual agreement among ASEAN countries.

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