- - Monday, December 17, 2018


The unwritten law is often a myth, romantic as the idea may be. If it’s not written there’s no one to enforce such a “law.” Such romantic legislation is usually thought to apply to the defense of marriage and the home, but it’s sometimes applied to other things, such as the freedom of the seas. It’s only useful when there’s a nation big enough and determined enough to enforce the principle of such a law.

China, newly wealthy and ambitious to be recognized as a world power, is big enough and determined enough to have the weight to throw around in places like the Taiwan Strait and in the sea lanes of southern Asia, where it is building small islands from sand and coral and calling them sovereign Chinese territory. Push has not yet come to shove, but a crisis is bubbling.

The USS Stockdale, a guided-missile destroyer, together with a fleet oiler, moved through the Taiwan Strait a fortnight ago in accordance with what a U.S. spokesman called “a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with international law.”

However, the possibility of misunderstood dings and accidents continue at a high level due to the claims and counterclaims of the United States and China about passage in the strait and in other places.

The United States claims, and has for a long time, that the Taiwan Strait, the channel between the Mainland and Taiwan, is an international waterway and therefore subject to transit by its ships at any time without permission from either China or Taiwan. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait,” says a U.S. Navy spokesman, “demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

China, with its claim — and a claim is all it is — on Taiwan sovereignty as part of China, routinely complains that these U.S. passages through the region infringes China’s sovereignty. Along with the 110-mile-wide Taiwan Strait, China claims several reefs converted to artificial islands in the South China Sea as part of its sovereign territory. The United States does not support the claims.

Earlier in October two ships from a third nation went through the Taiwan Strait without incident. But shortly afterward Chinese officials hinted they would defend their territory against expected future U.S. transits of the Strait. At the end of September, a Luyang-class destroyer had steamed on a near-collision-course with USS Decatur as both ships traveled the strait near the Gaven Reef. In this case, the Decatur was finishing a Freedom of Navigation Operation in the area. “We have noticed related reports,” an official of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said. China’s position on Taiwan and the South China Sea remains unchanged.”

The dispute about use of the waterways is part of a continuing U.S.-China standoff on a number of issues. The relationship between the United States and China has become not only extensive but intense.

Huawei Technologies Co. is a Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics company based in China. It provides networking and telecommunication solutions to a wide group of customers outside China, including the United States and Canada. The company researches and develops Internet access, transmission networks, servers, storage, security, and other networking products and services. It also offers business consulting, network integration, assurance, managed, learning, and global delivery services.

President Trump says he might pursue a criminal case against the chief financial officer of Huawei, who was arrested in Canada for deportation to the United States, but this would break from longstanding custom and his advisers have told him that his options are limited. China, too, has limited options, and has no doubt been similarly warned. But Chinese provocations continue.

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