EDITOR’ S NOTE: On May 14, The Globe And Mail, Canadian National Newspaper, published an editorial titled “Overreach on Reefs”, which took sides and made untenable argument over the disputed Huangyan Islet on behalf of The Philippines. Our Ottawa-based chief correspondent, Xuejiang Li sent a rebuttal commentary to the editor of Op-Ed page of the Globe and Mail in order for the Canadian readers to have the opportunity to read about both side of the issue and gain balanced understanding of the situation. But to his regret, his commentary was declined to be published by the newspaper. The following is the full text of Mr. Xuejiang Li’s rebuttal commentary to the Globe And Mail editorial.
I was greatly surprised by the editorial of THE GLOBAL AND MAIL titled “CHINA: OVERREACH ON REEFS” (Editorial Page of May 14, 2012) by its ignorance of the international law on the issue of territorial sovereignty.
It is known to all, and the editorial itself admits that, "The Philippines and Vietnam's territorial claim of the South China Sea Islands is mainly on the basis of the system of exclusive economic zone and continental shelf regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This is a very feeble argument because the UNCLOS only allows the coastal countries to establish a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone; but there is no provision stipulating that the coastal countries can demand sovereignty over territories that have already been determined before the UNCLOS came into effect in 1994. In other words, the UNCLOS cannot replace, retroactively, other established norms of International Law. The UNCLOS states that the signatory countries of the UNCLOS should act according to the rules and principles of the general International Law when facing with issues not included in the UNCLOS.
When the editorial mentions the "Scarborough shoal" (China named it Huangyan Islet ), it says,“which is five times closer to the Filipino coast than to China’s.” This argument is patently untenable. The Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Islands are only a dozens of miles away from the Newfoundland coast and thousands miles away from France. Can Canada make any territorial claims on them based on the UNCLOS provisions? Applying the Editorial logic of proximity or putting forward arguments based only on the UNCLOS, then you should support Argentina’s claim on the Falklands which are more than 10 times closer to Argentina than to the United Kingdom.
The principles of historical rights and International Law are the most effective principles to determine the ownership of the territories, namely, the principles of first discovery, first occupation and first exercise of jurisdiction. China has had jurisdiction over the South China Sea islands since the Song and Yuan dynasties (nearly 1000 years ago). Even in modern times, the Republic of China's taking over of the South China Sea Islands, according to the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation after the defeat of Japan, was internationally recognized. The administrative regions map of the Republic of China had clearly marked the national boundary line in the South China Sea in 1947 including Huangyan Islet. The People’s Republic of China also re-declared its territorial sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands including Huangyan Islet in the Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea in 1958.