Friday, December 20, 2019

Chinese research ships to get permits only when exploring undisputed seas

China has expressed its willingness to abide by international law after issuing a new policy on marine scientific research in foreign countries.

Earlier this week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry (FMPRC) released a notice to Chinese groups or individuals seeking to conduct marine scientific research in other countries' territory to get an "explicit statement of consent." "In the course of conducting scientific research, scientific research task units or individuals should follow the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, observe the laws and regulations of coastal states, and carry out activities in accordance with research plans agreed by coastal states," the notice read.

The notice covers Chinese government departments, units, enterprises and organizations and individuals aiming to conduct research of marine enviroment of other countries.

This new policy, however, applies to areas that are undisputed. "For the purpose of this notice, foreign jurisdictional waters refer to territorial seas, exclusive economic zones, and continental shelves (including the continental shelf of 200 nautical miles) claimed by foreign countries that have no dispute over sovereignty and jurisdiction with China," the FMPRC said.

China claims majority of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea which is within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and part of the country's continental shelf.

The Chinese government directed those who would like to conduct marine scientific research in other countries to submit an application form at least seven months before conducting the research.

This policy came after India expelled a Chinese research ship caught operating in waters near Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which is Indian territory.
Chinese survey ships have also been spotted operating in Philippine waters in recent months.

In August, Chinese research vessel Zhang Jian was located operating just 80 nautical miles from the Philippines' east coast. Days after this incident, another survey ship Dong Fang Hong 3 was spotted in northern Luzon.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government should ask Beijing to explain the presence of Chinese research vessels and warships in Philippine waters.

In response to Lorenzana's pronouncements, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he would be "firing off a diplomatic protest" over the incident.

In 2018, the government gave Chinese ships permission to explore the Philippine Rise, a resource-rich underwater area off the coast of Aurora province. China later proposed names for the undersea features on the area, which is indisputably part of the Philippines.