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Indonesia protests China's 'historic rights' in the East Sea

14:19 | 17/06/2020

The Indonesian Permanent Mission to the United Nations submitted a note confirming China's "historic rights" in the East Sea to be inconsistent with UNCLOS.  

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The note was sent by the Indonesian permanent delegation at the United Nations to General Secretary António Guterres on June 12, in response to China's note sent on June 2 regarding the East Sea. 

In this note, Indonesia stated two points to reaffirm its stance on the East Sea issue under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) and the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on 12/5/2016.

"No entity in the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands is entitled to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or continental shelf, so no entity here creates an area overlapping with the EEZ or continental shelf of Indonesia," the note said states. 

Indonesian-Foreign-Minister-Retno-Marsudi-(center)-attended-a-debate-session-at-the-UN-Security-Council-in-January-2019.-Photo:-BNG-Indonesia
Indonesian-Foreign-Minister-Retno-Marsudi-(center)-attended-a-debate-session-at-the-UN-Security-Council-in-January-2019.-Photo:-BNG-Indonesia

The second point mentioned by Indonesia in the note is that no historical rights related to China exists in the EEZ and continental shelf of Indonesia. "If any historical rights existed before UNCLOS took effect, those rights have been replaced by UNCLOS regulations," the Indonesian note highlights.

Therefore, Indonesia recognized that there was no legal reason under international law, especially UNCLOS, to conduct negotiations on delimitation of maritime boundaries with China or on any other issues related to rights or maritime benefits are made contrary to international law.

The Indonesian Permanent Mission to the United Nations also offered to send the note to all members of the Continental Shelf Boundary Committee (CLCS), as well as all members of UNCLOS and the United Nations.

China unilaterally drew a "nine-dash line" covering almost the entire East Sea to claim sovereignty under "historical rights", despite the contradiction of UNCLOS rules and the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Philipinos-protest-against-China's-claim-over-East-Sea
Fhilipinos-protest-against-China's-claim-over-East-Sea

Unlike many other countries in the region, Indonesia's claims in the East Sea do not directly conflict with China. However, the country's exclusive economic zone surrounding the Natuna Island overlaps with China's illegal nine-dash line. Chinese fishing boats have repeatedly operated in this area. 

Indonesia on May 26 sent a letter to the United Nations, saying that China's "nine-dash line" in the East Sea lacks an international legal basis, citing the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. The letter also rejected Beijing's irrational historical claims to the sea. Indonesia's foreign minister said on June 4 that China's claim to the East Sea is damaging Indonesia's economic interests. 

The US earlier this month also sent a letter to Secretary-General Guterres, asserting that China's claim in the East Sea is "inconsistent with international law". The U.S. letter of China 's CML / 14/2019 note sent to the United Nations on 12 December 2019 to oppose Malaysia's submission to the Continental Shelf Commission (CLCS) the same day. The United States asked the United Nations to send this letter of protest to all members, and also posted on the website of the legal office.  

Vietnam on April 10 also circulated a note at the United Nations to assert sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands in accordance with the provisions of international law, all maritime claims that are contrary to regulations UNCLOS, infringing upon sovereignty, sovereignty, and jurisdiction over Vietnam's waters are invalid.    

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