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China has shown the way on South China Sea coral reefs: will rival claimants follow?

2020-01-03 09:33:05       source:NISCSS

December 30, 2019

I refer to the article, “Can Beijing bring the South China Sea’s ravaged coral reefs back to life?” (December 21).


China’s Ministry of Agriculture has released a 10-year plan to minimise the destruction of coral reefs and create conservation areas in the Spratlys. China would like the other claimants to the islands to cooperate.


Yet, analysts and governments are criticising the move. They fear that China will use such cooperation to argue that the other claimants are legally “acquiescing” to China’s ownership of the reefs and areas in question.


But they could make a public declaration that any cooperation does not constitute recognition of – or acquiescence to – any country’s claim to the features and area subject to the cooperative effort.


Thus, the reason for not cooperating is only an excuse for political opposition to any China-led effort – and reveals the critics’ own lack of genuine concern for the environment.

All the claimants of the South China Sea have undertaken island construction, though on a much smaller scale, and used destructive fishing methods like poison and blast fishing. China – with its much larger populace, economy and fishing fleet – has caused some damage there, too. But it is also proposing the largest remedial actions. The question for these critics is, what do they really want – to protect the environment or politically embarrass China?


At least China is tacitly admitting responsibility for damage caused. The other claimants should follow suit and put their money where their mouth is.

Mark J. Valencia is an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China

Link: https://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/3043621/china-has-shown-way-south-china-sea-coral-reefs-will-rival 


The NISCSS is authorized to re-publish this article on it.