Taking a Stand at Sea

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Beijing’s official response to the latest confrontation between Chinese “fishing boats” and a U.S. navy surveillance vessel (see our post below) goes some way to confirming that this problem is going to be around for a while and could get ugly. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the ship was breaking international and Chinese law by conducting surveillance within China’s 200 kilometer exclusive economic zone (story here from the China Daily), a position China is clearly intent on taking a strong stand on. The issue of whether or not the exclusive economic zone also allows countries the right to approve naval excercises is complicated. Not surprisingly, the U.S. says those are intertional waters and as long as no one is digging things up from the seabed, drilling for oil or similar activities, anything goes. Beijing, obviously doesn’t want foreign navies sniffing around near its bases and is trying to keep them on a leash within the zone. This time it was actually a Chinee navy ship that “rescued” the U.S. vessel. When Chinese navy ships decide to enforce Bijing’s reading of the Law of the Sea (a convention that, incidentally, the U.S. is not party to), then things could get dicey.