Right and Wrong in the South China Sea 177


The Chinese are in the wrong in seizing an American hydrographic survey drone. It is worth noting that whether it was genuinely engaged in scientific research or whether it was engaged in some sort of defence surveillance activity is irrelevant. It was operating entirely lawfully on the high seas and the Chinese had no right to seize it.

John Pilger’s tremendous new documentary The Coming War With China explains Chinese motivations. China is ringed by 200 US military bases and installations, far from any State of the USA, in an unabashed display of American Imperial power. China by contrast has very few military outposts outside China at all and shows remarkably little interest in territorial ambition, given China’s current economic power. The stories of US exploitation and duplicity recounted in the Pilger documentary are overwhelming, and of course the entire venture is a massive transfer of money from struggling US taxpayers to the arms industry. One is left with a feeling of surprise that the Chinese reaction to naked US threat is so calm and not paranoid.

But while this may make Chinese behaviour understandable, it is none the less wrong in law. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea makes absolutely clear that artificial islands cannot make a maritime claim – articles 60 and 80 refer. This law is both right and necessary. If we accept that artificial islands can generate a maritime claim, then the great powers will be racing all over the globe to build them and claim the oceans, to the detriment of the rest of the world, and especially developing countries.

US behaviour is aggressive on a global scale. The Chinese reaction represents blowback. But that does not make it either right or legal.


177 thoughts on “Right and Wrong in the South China Sea

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    • Nick

      Without alcohol being involved i wonder how many contributors to this blog would’ve been conceived?

  • RAC

    Yanks and their toys, takes me back forty odd years. We were in the West Indies and got a call to go to one of the islands, cant remember which one now. The locals had found something washed up on the beach and feared it may have been dangerous. Our lot went for a look, declared it safe and brought it back on board. The torpedo like object had been in the water for a while and accumulated a fair amount of plant life. There it sat on the flight deck waiting our next visit to a US base when an inquisitive junior rate scraped the detritus from a plate which gave an address and various details plus the promise of a reward for the finder. He of course wrote off and claimed it, though whether or not anything came of it I don’t know.

  • mauisurfer

    pardon for being off topic, but did you know

    President Putin (1952–) immediately telephoned President Bush
    (1946–). ‘I said that Masud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, had
    just been killed. I told my American colleague: “I’m very worried.
    Something big is going to happen. They’re planning something.”’
    The Twin Towers in New York were bombed two days later.

    I have been reading “Afgantsy” by Rodric Braithwaite, who was UK ambassador to USSR at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan.
    Incredible book, brilliantly written, many insights, even a mention of
    Sikunder Burnes”. Found a free pdf copy on a pashtun website.

    The full context of the quote above is:

    The Arabs got their interview on 9 September and killed Masud with a
    bomb concealed in their TV camera. They were said to be Moroccans
    from a news agency in London. Scotland Yard therefore investigated
    the affair and Dubnov was interviewed by them. But the investigation
    was apparently abandoned for lack of sufficient evidence.30
    President Putin (1952–) immediately telephoned President Bush
    (1946–). ‘I said that Masud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, had
    just been killed. I told my American colleague: “I’m very worried.
    Something big is going to happen. They’re planning something.”’ 31
    Th e Twin Towers in New York were bombed two days later. Putin
    was the first foreign leader to express his condolences to Bush, and
    immediately took practical steps to support the forthcoming American
    campaign to destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda. His people handed over
    a good deal of intelligence, including minefield maps – many of them
    inevitably inaccurate after the passage of time. He opened Russian air
    space to American military flights and persuaded the leaders of the
    Central Asian states to do the same. He met the leaders of the Northern
    Alliance, stepped up Russian military support for them, and convinced
    them to cooperate with the Americans. Th is collaboration did not
    flag. The northern supply route through Russia became increasingly
    important, as the Americans got into trouble with their supply route
    from Pakistan. The flow of intelligence continued. In October 2010
    Russians provided support and advice for a US-led raid on four major
    narcotics factories, the first joint operation of its kind. Many Russians
    felt that the Americans were insufficiently grateful for what Putin had
    done to help them.32

  • lawrenceab

    The Chinese have certainly upped the ante. They snatched the drone virtually under the eyes of the US ship and not only in international waters but OUTSIDE their own claimed ‘nine-dash-line’. In fact a few miles only off the Philippine coast. That is a first, and it sends a signal that they intend to project power even beyond their claimed and disputed waters, to the entire region.

    The lack of any robust US response is deeply worrying for the other littoral states who have to decide whether they can count on US support or should hedge their bets and make nice with China. According to the NYT the Obama administration was trying to keep this incident under wraps while they handled it “quietly”, but were wrong-footed by a leak to CNN.

  • lysias

    RT has been reporting an attack on the Russian ambassador to Turkey at a photo exhibition in Ankara. The ambassador was apparently shot twice and seriously wounded. He has been taken to a hospital.

    The shooter, who was in police uniform, shouted “Allahu akbar!”, but he also spoke some Russian, which suggests to me that he is a Chechen. He also allegedly said something about Aleppo, at least according to initial reports.

    The shooter was later shot dead, which is unfortunate, as he cannot now be interrogated. Apparently he said that he would not be taken alive, so perhaps he gave the authorities no choice but to kill him.

      • michael norton

        I should think by now the Russian people are beginning to lose patience with people in Turkey and the doings of the Turkish regime.

          • Five's a fix

            Odd. I was interested in that association earlier. Searched this blog with variations but to no avail. However your post above gave hope. Subsequent search for “Gulenist” as above resulted in the familiar “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm…” Have I missed a post where Craig explains that search / indexing has been switched off? Just asking?

          • Five's a fix

            lysias, that wasn’t my point. I can use Google if I want, duckduckgo etc. What I hoped for was to be able to search the knowledge and links that have accumulated on this blog. Is this just an evacuated echo chamber? Again, just asking.

    • lysias

      Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu was already en route to Moscow when the attack occurred. For previously scheduled negotiations.

    • lawrenceab

      It is preferable for the Turkish authorities that he be shot dead, so that he can be accused of being a Gulenist. Alive, he might dispute this truth.

  • Jim Scott

    Perhaps the Chinese just want to let the US know they notice their presence and make the rest world are aware of the intense spying being carried out by the USA at the same time China is being attacked for carrying out cyber attacks on the USA. Although it seems Russia is the main subject of vilification since they defeated the NATO terrorist team in Aleppo.
    It is not only Trump who seems ridiculous at the moment. I noted a strong level in histrionics in Obama’s last speech in another attempt to shoot the messenger over Hillary’s lies, cheating and deceptions. It is probably the first time I have seen Obama lose his cool and measured public face.
    The sad conclusion is that there is definitely a hint of blood in the air and the dogs of war are on the scent of more carnage and ready to tear down any challenges to their “American exeptionalism” or to use the old description, challenges to the master race.

  • Blair paterson

    Yes the Chinese were wrong to build these islands they should have done what those great bastions of freedom done Britain and America find an island they wanted and throw the people out and build an airbase deago Garcia for example talk about double stsndars

    • craig Post author

      You seem to have overlooked the fact that this blog has campaigned on Diego Garcia consistently for over a decade. That is a crime – indeed genocide. But it doesn’t make the Chinese actions right.

      • RobG

        Your blog has also just deleted a number of later posts by you, Craig Murray, that contained hundreds of comments, running up until about 23.50 on 20th December.

        Plus, your latest post was promoting your latest book.

        It seems strange to have deleted it all?

        • craig Post author

          Just one post has been taken down, setting a now passed deadline for ordering books for Christmas. Taken down as deadline now passed.

          You post off-topic comments entirely at own risk! I expect they still live on the wayback machine if you are concerned about your posterity.

          • RobG

            I’m not the least bit concerned about my own posterity.

            I’m just a bit worried about yours.

            And your syntax is entirely unlike Craig Murray, even a Mr Murray who’s had a few drams.

          • craig Post author

            Rob, Clark,

            I’m a bit tired. Not least because my post about last chance to buy signed copies was wildly successful, and spent last two days desperately keeping up with orders! But also just normal christmas hassle.

          • RobG

            Clark, I’ve also written and published books (quite a few more than Craig) and this is the first time I’ve seen any author, no matter how well known they are, who would delete a blog post on their own board that promotes their book in the days running up to Christmas.

            Them dang, pesky guys in Langley, ay.

            And I don’t have tin foil on my head.

            We’re using it for the turkey.

          • Clark

            Craig, it’s always good to hear from you, and I don’t doubt it’s really you (unless… Am I sure I’m really me?!!!)

            Have a good sleep.

          • Sharp Ears

            It never happened

            ‘It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.’ Harold Pinter.

            When Googling for that quote, it took three clicks. A lot of Hollywood trash came up first. Weird that.

  • Spike

    Shall we return to the subject of South Africa during the time period you mentioned?

    During those years in South Africa you could buy anything you wanted as long as it had “Made in China” written upon it. Fancy an Ouzi, or an AK47? Hey, cash will do nicely, especially if it is paid in Krugerrands.

    China has been playing the west for fools since WW2.

  • RobG

    I wonder who did that? (pulled down all the recent posts of Craig’s on this board)

    This was predicted by some to happen today all across the internet. I’m not a techie, but sort of realise that there is some very weird stuff occurring at the moment.

    These vermin aren’t going to win.

    We’re coming to get you.

    • michael norton

      I’ve never known a complete blog of Craig be pulled before.
      I am fairly sure it was the Americans
      but which bit upset them, who knows?

    • Macky

      Craig really is a most vain & unpleasant man; nevermind that the Thread that he has just deleted contained over one hundred comments spread over two pages, of some very thoughtful posts that commenters had obviously taken time to compose, not to mention the many interesting links contained, all that matters was that the cut-off date for ordering his book had past, so all that can go into the cyber bin. I suspect that the fact that his interjectory comments were countered, and that his favourite troll was taking a beating, also were a strong factor in his decision to pull the Thread.

      It’s not that he doesn’t have form for this, as I recall the occasion two or three years ago, when he pull two whole multi-pages threads, of over one thousand comments in total, on the pretext that one of the pro-Israeli trolls, notorious for smearing people as anti-Semites at the drop of a hat, had alleged that some one had made a comment that could be considered as “Holocaust Denial”, and believe it or not, Craig actually stated that he could be bothered to check the comment itself, so he deleted two whole threads instead !! The fact that on both these threads his povs on which he had blogged about, where being taken to pieces by many of his commentators, is just a coincidence, so he would like us to believe.

      That he treats his commentators with such contempt, is just another reason why Craig Murray has such a bad reputation with those long acquainted with his views & how he operates his blog.

      • Alan

        If you don’t like the way Craig runs HIS blog then you know what to do. He allows you to whine about him, doesn’t he, after all?

        • Macky

          @Alan, with comments like that, you don’t come across as a particularly cerebral type of person, so I won’t waste time exposing the inherent intellectual bankruptcy, so I’ll just say that I’m not the sort of person to keep quite when I see something that is clearly very wrong.

          Hope that’s easy enough for you to understand, as you keep your head down & loyally accept blatant hypocrisies & injustices on a self-acclaimed “Free Speech Blog”, and of a Whistle-Blower no less !!

  • Paul Davidson

    Craig, I’m not sure if China is building the islands in order to make a territorial claim or if it is visa-versa, China building islands based upon its claim of sovereignty. Could you please clarify. Thanks.

    Meanwhile, the Trumpaggedon clock ticks on.

    • michael norton

      The islands are not real islands, they are mostly dead bodies, some living bodies and much imported cement

  • Bhante

    “But while this may make Chinese behaviour understandable, it is none the less wrong in law.”

    The law is only one side. Sometimes moral considerations transcend the law. China has a moral obligation to protect her citizens and sovereignty from certain American aggression. Law is not absolute.

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