- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

China has enacted a new decree extending its control over a 200-mile economic zone from its coast that Bush administration officials say could lead to another clash with the United States over freedom of navigation.
"This is a Chinese domestic law that is inconsistent with international law and the law that we follow," said a defense official.
"We have continued to maintain over the years that our military surveys are a high-seas freedom and are not subject to restrictions placed within any" exclusive economic zone.
A second defense official said China's latest effort to assert control over international waters poses a threat to U.S. Navy survey operations, such as ocean mapping and environmental monitoring.
"We could be looking at another Pueblo incident," said one intelligence official.
North Korean military forces attacked the intelligence ship USS Pueblo in 1968 off the coast of North Korea, killing one crew member and wounding several others. The communist government held 82 Navy sailors prisoner for 11 months and still holds the ship.
While most of the Navy's ocean-survey ships conduct scientific research, some gather intelligence. Neither activity is banned under the 1994 international treaty that allowed states to regulate seas up to 200 miles off their coasts.
The law, announced in December by Beijing, states that any survey and mapping activities cannot involve state secrets or harm state security, a change from a 1995 decree that granted all nations "freedom of navigation in and flight" over its exclusive economic zone as long as they comply with international law and Chinese law.
The amended law also says Chinese civil and military authorities must approve all survey and mapping activity in Chinese-controlled waters and requires that any "foreign entities" wishing to do such work in that zone must be part of a joint venture with a Chinese company.
The law states that any unapproved ocean-survey activity will be subject to sanctions, including fines, and confiscation of equipment and data.
The Chinese decree also warns there will be "additional unspecified penalties" if the confiscated data are determined to involve state secrets.
A State Department official said that the new law is being studied, but that the Chinese government was notified that "the United States will exercise our maritime rights in accordance with international law."
"The Chinese know our position," the official said.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman had no immediate comment.
International law, including the 1994 Law of the Sea Treaty that China signed, lets nations regulate economic activity for up to 200 miles off their coasts, but limits territorial control to 12 miles. It is intended to limit economic-related activities such as fishing or exploration for natural resources.
John Garver, a professor of international affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the Law of the Sea Treaty does not allow signatories to regulate noneconomic activities in the 200-mile zone, such as ocean surveys and mapping.
Pentagon officials view the law extending China's control over international waters as part of a long-range strategy by Beijing to extend China's control further from its coast.
Control to 200 miles out would give Beijing power over vital strategic waterways throughout the Asia-Pacific region, something the U.S. military opposes as a threat to free navigation.
China's long-term goal, defense officials claim, is to beef up naval and air forces to project power east from its 10,000 miles of coastline to cover two chains of islands.
One chain stretches south from Japan the Ryukyu Islands through Taiwan and all the way to Indonesia and Singapore. The outermost island chain embraces a huge swath of the Pacific Ocean that includes Japan's other islands, areas beyond the Mariana Islands and a line extending southward hundreds of miles east of the Philippines.
William Triplett, a former counsel to the Senate Foreign Relatons Committee, also said China's ocean-control effort is ominous.
"This is contrary to international law and a major territorial grab by the Chinese that simply cannot be allowed to stand," Mr. Triplett said in an interview.
If Beijing is attempting to regulate the internationally recognized right of "innocent passage," which lets all ships transit controlled zones, "that would be deeply troubling," Mr. Garver said.
The announcement of the new Chinese law follows the harassment of the Navy's ocean-survey ship USS Bowditch by Chinese military patrol aircraft and ships in September.
The Bowditch was traveling in international waters off the coast of northern China in the Yellow Sea. Shortly after its arrival in the area Sept. 7, Chinese Y-8 and Y-12 aircraft flew within 500 feet of the ship and warships made threatening passes, coming within 200 yards of the vessel.
Chinese patrol craft also radioed threatening messages, telling the Bowditch to leave the area, which China claims as its territorial water. Beijing also lodged a diplomatic protest over the incident.
The Navy said the ship was operating legally in international waters.
A Chinese government spokewoman accused the Navy of violating China's law.
"We regard such activities as a violation of the principles of international law and of the interests and jurisdiction of China's special economic zones," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told reporters in Beijing at the time.
The incident came weeks before Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited the United States.
A U.S. defense official at the time dismissed the Chinese claim as "laughable" because the Bowditch was operating some 60 miles off the Chinese coast. The unarmed ship was conducting hydrographic survey and "is hardly a threat," the official said.
In another dispute over Beijing's territoriality claims, a Chinese F-8 interceptor jet in April 2001 flew into a U.S. EP-3 surveillance aircraft flying in international airspace, 60 miles off the Chinese coast.
Beijing objected to the flight, claiming it was violating China's airspace by flying over the 200-mile zone. The U.S. aircraft made an emergency landing on China's Hainan island, where the 23-member crew was imprisoned for 11 days. The F-8 crashed into the sea, killing its pilot.


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