Beijing ( AsiaNews / Agencies) -
The United States has branded Beijing's new norms which impose limitations and
restrictions on the navigation of vessels and foreign vessels in disputed
waters of the South China Sea as "provocative and potentially dangerous".
Washington, they are likely to exacerbate already tense relations in the Asia-
Pacific region, particularly between China, Vietnam and the Philippines. The
government of Manila , through its diplomatic mission , has already asked Beijing
for further clarification, while analysts and international policy experts
point to the growing fear of an armed conflict in the region.
According to a law passed in November last year by Hainan province , in the far south of China, and in force since January 1, ships will have to ask for a " prior permission" to transit. This is an area that includes about two of the 3.5 million km2 forming the South China Sea , a strategic area for both businesses as well as for the presence of natural resources (oil and gas) in the subsurface.
In addition to creating concern among governments in the area, these new norms are likely to exacerbate the already tense relations between Beijing and Washington. The US in recent weeks had strongly criticized the way the Chinese had created a zone of airspace control over the East China Sea .
The U.S. State Department says that the new rules on navigation have no concrete justifications "under international law" and without any clear legitimacy based on the law, the U.S. government calls on China to " avoid those unilateral actions that might just increase the tension and undermine prospects for a diplomatic and peaceful resolution of differences. "
Meanwhile, the dispute has also involved the Vietnamese government, which claims the territorial sovereignty of large portions of the Spratlys and Paracel islands . "Any foreign activities in these areas without the consent of the Vietnamese government - said the Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi - are illegal and have no legal basis". Vietnamese fishermen, moreover, fear serious repercussions in their own business.
In the East China Sea, China has also been involved in a dispute with Japan for sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and with the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal. Beijing's sovereignty claims in the South China Sea include the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, Brunei, Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan. Almost uninhabited, the islands and surrounding waters are rich in resources and raw materials. Hegemony in the sea is strategically important for trade and the exploitation of seabed oil and natural gas reserves, in an area where two thirds of world's shipping takes place.