China has submitted to the UN a detailed explanation of its claims to a disputed area of the East China Sea.
It argues that certain geological features prove its territory extends out to a group of islands near Japan.
A UN commission of geological experts will examine China’s submission but does not have the authority to resolve conflicting claims.
Beijing and Tokyo have long laid claim to the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Tensions flared up again in September after the Japanese government bought three of the islands from their private Japanese owner, triggering public protests in some Chinese cities.
Since then Chinese ships have been sailing in and out of waters around the islands, prompting warnings from Japan.
There was another diplomatic spat on Thursday after a Chinese government plane flew near the disputed islands.
Tokyo responded by scrambling fighter jets. Both countries accused the other of violating their air space.
Nice of China to submit its claims to a body that has no authority, that is part of an organization know for spinelessness, and that it can feel free to ignore if it doesn’t like the answer.
A former senior U.S. defense official viewed as a possible successor to Leon Panetta as defense secretary said the Philippines has recently mistaken U.S. renewed engagement in the region as an opportunity to more assertively pursue territorial claims against China.
Michèle Flournoy, who served as undersecretary for defense policy until February 2012, said last month while the U.S. needed to send clear signals of support for its allies in the region, it also needed to ensure that support didn’t lead allies to act provocatively.
Naming the Philippines specifically, she said there was a risk of Manila “mistaking U.S. support for an opportunity to be much more assertive in staking their claims. I think we have to be careful that we don’t feed that dynamic.”
“I do think there is a danger of some of our friends occasionally misreading, or miscalculating, in terms of the support that they have from the United States,” Ms. Flournoy added.
Tensions between China and the Philippines escalated rapidly this year over longstanding territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Many feared a prolonged spring standoff between Chinese and Philippine government vessels in the sea’s disputed Scarborough Shoal would trigger conflict.
The standoff eventually drew down peacefully, but revived questions over what the U.S. would do in the event of an armed China-Philippines clash. The U.S. is obligated to protect the Philippines by a 1951 mutual-defense pact. It remains unclear, however, whether a conflict in disputed territory would trigger the U.S. to act in defense of its Asian ally.
Countries rise and fall, disputed territories change hands. It happens. But China knows what it’s doing, and whom it’s messing with. In Japan and the Philippines, it is taking on two of the USA’s closest allies in Asia. That can’t be an accident.
Neither can our response. Arab sheikhs, Asian PMs; once more, President Obama has bowed to foreign authorities.