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王翰灵副研究员屡次接受《中国日报》采访

Special Agency Set Up to Handle Sea, Land Disputes

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

Updated: 2009-05-06

A dedicated department has been set up to tackle land and maritime border disputes, the Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.

The department of boundary and ocean affairs is mainly responsible for land and sea boundary demarcation and management, drafting diplomatic policies, and negotiating joint development at sea, spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular press briefing.

Earlier, those responsibilities were shared by several departments.

According to media reports, Ning Fukui, a senior diplomat specializing in Asian affairs, is head of the department.

The two deputy heads, Wang Zonglai and Ouyang Yujing, are both senior diplomats dealing with boundary affairs from the department of treaty and law. Wang is an expert on international maritime law, while Ouyang has participated in border demarcations and negotiations in recent years.

Because of the country's long boundary and large sea territory, it was necessary to establish a special department, Ma said. It is not clear how many countries have equivalent government agencies.

China shares a land boundary of 22,000 km with 14 countries; and is yet to finalize land demarcation with India and Bhutan.

It has a coastline of 18,000 km and maritime territory of 3 million sq km, which involves disputes with several countries.

The establishment of the department, which reportedly started functioning last month, coincides with escalating rows with Malaysia and the Philippines over some islands in the South China Sea.

In the East China Sea, the country has yet to reach agreement with Japan over joint development in the oil-rich waters.

Ma's announcement came days before the May 13 deadline set by the United Nations for countries to submit claims over extended continental shelves.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a continental shelf of up to 200 nautical miles from the archipelagic baseline automatically belongs to a nation and no proof of claim is required.

States may claim an extended continental shelf of up to 350 nautical miles from the baseline.

Wang Hanling, a maritime affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the new department is vital for clearing the bottleneck in the nation's maritime development.

Except on a short sea border with Vietnam, China has reached no agreement with neighbors on demarcation at sea, Wang said.

One of the symbols of a global power is that it has no, or few, territorial disputes but China has many such disputes, he said. "This has restricted China's development."

Mei Ran, an expert with Peking University, said the new department would help Chinese diplomats better deal with boundary issues, especially when it comes to law and proof study - areas in which China lags behind some neighbors.

Pang Zhongying, an international relations expert at Renmin University of China, said the government, by setting up the department, is sending a signal that it wants to resolve border disputes through peaceful means.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-05/06/content_7746562.ht

Chinese fishing vessels confront US ship

China Daily

2009-05-07

The US surveillance ship that got into a confrontation with Chinese fishing vessels on Friday in the Yellow Sea violated international and Chinese laws, the Foreign Ministry said.

The USNS Victorious, designed for anti-submarine warfare and underwater mapping, was engaged in routine operations in international waters, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu disagreed.

"The fact is that the USNS Victorious conducted activities in China's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Yellow Sea without China's permission. China has expressed concern over this issue," he said.

Whitman said Wednesday that two Chinese vessels came within 27 m of the USNS Victorious on Friday about 110 km off the Chinese coast, forcing it to sound an alarm and turn on its fire hoses to deter the vessels.

They did not withdraw until a Chinese military ship arrived in response to an American call for assistance and shined a light on the fishing vessels to end the hour-long incident, he said.

China always handles foreign vessels' activities in its EEZs in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and relevant domestic laws, Ma said.

"We demand that the US take effective measures to prevent similar acts from happening."

The incident is the fifth of its kind within the past two months, unnamed US defense officials told AP.

The standoff peaked in early March when Chinese vessels and a US surveillance ship, the Impeccable, faced off about 120 km south of the island province of Hainan, which some Western media reported is the site of a Chinese submarine base.

The US protested to Beijing, calling it "harassment", while China said the Impeccable was on a spying mission and demanded the US cease illegal activities in the South China Sea.

The US responded by dispatching heavily armed destroyers to escort US surveillance ships operating there. It is not clear if the Victorious was under escort when the latest incident occurred.

Wang Hanling, an expert on marine law with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China has reiterated that any intelligence data gathering by foreign vessels within its 200-nautical mile EEZ is illegal.

But the US maintains it has unrestricted passage in international waters as long as vessels are not hampering the economic interests of the countries they pass. It has not ratified the UN sea convention, objecting to a clause on seabed mineral exploration.

"But in Chinese waters of course they should obey Chinese laws, not to mention that what they are doing is endangering Chinese national security," Wang said.

Niu Xinchun, an expert on American studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Chinese and US authorities have shown tacit understanding by not playing up the incident.

Asked why the Pentagon was less aggressive with its words this time, compared to its fierce attacks on Chinese "harassment" in March, Whitman said on Tuesday they were "exploring ways to handle this diplomatically".

"The agreement was likely reached in the aftermath of the March confrontation, as the brawl ended at the ministry level. Both sides realized such events shouldn't hurt bilateral relations," Niu said.

But such confrontations in Chinese EEZs will continue to happen, given increasing US intelligence activities there, he said.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-05/07/content_7751489.htm#

China rejects bid to redraw maritime border

By Wang Linyan (China Daily)

2009-05-09

China has urged a UN commission not to review a submission from Vietnam and a joint submission from Malaysia and Vietnam that question the location of the outer limits of the continental shelf.

Vietnam submitted information to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on Thursday and presented the joint submission with Malaysia to the UN on Wednesday.

The location of the edge of the continental shelf has a bearing on the extent of national waters.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, including Xisha and Nansha Islands. China enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu on Friday.

"Vietnam's submission has seriously infringed China's sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction. It's illegal and invalid," Ma said.

Ma said the Chinese Permanent Mission to the United Nations presented a note to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday, urging the CLCS not to review the submissions on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

The joint submission infringed upon China's sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea, the Chinese mission said.

A note from the mission posted on the UN website states that "in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Rules of Procedure of CLCS, the Chinese government seriously requests that the CLCS not consider the joint submission".

The Chinese government has informed Malaysia and Vietnam of the position, according to the note.

The joint submission came about one week before the May 13 deadline set by the UN for countries to submit claims over extended continental shelves. According to the CLCS Rules of Procedure, "in cases where a land or maritime dispute exists, the commission shall not consider and qualify a submission made by any of the states concerned in the dispute".

With the opposition from China, the CLCS will not consider the joint submission in line with the rules of procedure, a spokesman told Xinhua.

Analysts said Malaysia and Vietnam intend to define their position and rights in the South China Sea through the joint submission. "By submitting information to the commission, the two countries also intend to internationalize the South China Sea issue, " said Wang Hanling, an expert on marine law with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, adding that "negotiation is the best way to solve disputes in the South China Sea, and cooperation benefits all countries in the area."

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-05/09/content_7759368.htm

Negotiations to settle maritime borders

By Wang Linyan (China Daily)

Updated: 2009-05-13

China said yesterday it will establish its maritime boundaries through peaceful negotiations.

The government will safeguard maritime rights and interests in accordance with consistent views and stances, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

"Meanwhile, the government, in the principle of fairness, will mark its maritime boundaries through peaceful negotiations with neighboring maritime countries," Ma said.

China has always advocated political solutions to disputes over maritime boundaries in line with UN conventions, analysts said.

"Peaceful negotiation is the best way to solve the disputes, and cooperation benefits all countries concerned," said Wang Hanling, an expert on marine law with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The Chinese Permanent Mission to the United Nations submitted its claim on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles to the United Nations on Monday. The document includes some parts of the East China Sea.

The deadline for submissions is today.

Ma said China reserves its right to submit claims on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in other areas.

"China has indisputable sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters," Ma said.

China has urged the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf not to review a submission from Vietnam and a joint submission from Malaysia and Vietnam that question the location of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

Vietnam submitted its information last Thursday and presented the joint submission with Malaysia last Wednesday.

The submissions infringed upon China's sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea, the Chinese mission said.

Because of the opposition from China, the CLCS will not consider the joint submission, a Chinese mission spokesman has told Xinhua.

Analysts said Malaysia and Vietnam intend to define their position and rights in the South China Sea through the joint submission. By submitting information to the commission, the two countries also intend to make the South China Sea an international issue, Wang said.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-05/13/content_7770341.htm

Changing tack with sea strategy

http://english.people.com.cn/90001/9077 ... 56502.html

China Daily, May 13, 2009

The recent disputes in the South China Sea, as well as several territorial claims logged with the United Nations, have led to calls from Chinese experts for an overhaul of the country's sea-faring strategy.

The South China Sea, part of the Pacific Ocean, covers an area of around 3.5 million sq m, while China's maritime jurisdiction in total, including the East China Sea and Yellow Sea, is around 3 million sq m, said Wang Hanling, an expert in maritime affairs and international law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

"But sometimes, disputes occur due to divisions in delimiting boundaries with China's eight neighboring countries," he said.

China shares common waters with the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. However, three high-profile moves in March this year saw tensions rise in the region.

China Yuzheng 311, the country's largest fishery patrol ship, travels to the port at Sanya, on the island province of Hainan, on March 19 this year after finishing the first phase of its fishery protection and maritime surveillance mission in the South China Sea. China News Service

The month began with a Malaysian official landing on two reefs, of China's Nansha Islands, and claiming the islands as his country's territory; just a few days later, United States spy vessel the USNS Impeccable intruded into China's exclusive economic zone without permission, violating international and Chinese laws, and, in the same week, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, signed a controversial bill into law that claimed Huangyan Island and the Nansha Islands were Filipino territory.

Last week, Vietnam also submitted an individual proposal and a joint proposal with Malaysia to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that questioned the outer limits of the continental shelf. The deadline for submissions is today, while the Chinese foreign ministry immediately branded the claims "illegal and invalid".

The South China Sea, or the "South Gate", plays an essential role in China's security, both economically and strategically, explained Wang. It provides a transportation route for 80 percent of the crude oil imported from the Middle East and Africa, it is itself rich in oil and gas reserves, and it is vital to the nation's efforts to diversify trade routes to bolster its export economy.

Disputes over the sea have occurred since the early 1970s.

In the Philippines, the stance over Huangyan Island and the Nansha Islands had been affected by an instability exacerbated by the global financial crisis, said Chinese analysts, with Wang accusing the Philippine leadership of resorting to "nationalistic" measures and "political stunts" to win supporters and votes ahead of a general election.

However, the waters have been calmed for the time being after serious diplomatic efforts. Following the signing of the Archipelagic Baselines Law, which states the Philippines may claim an extended continental shelf of up to 350 nautical miles, the country made only a "partial submission" to the UN commission on the limits of the continental shelf (CLCS) on April 8.

The claim simply involved the undisputed Benham Rise, an extinct volcanic ridge off the east coast of Luzon, while the Philippine government also stated it wanted to "avoid provoking or exacerbating maritime boundary disputes in the South China Sea with its neighboring countries".

Meanwhile, the nation's Manila Times reported its government had "stopped the clock on the UN deadline and bought time to sort out border issues with its neighbors".

Gao Jianjun, a professor in international maritime law at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the Philippines was "balancing a careful and cautionary approach" as its territorial claims in the South China Sea would not only upset China, but also Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

The submission of Manila's claims over Huangyan Island and the Nansha Islands had been indefinitely postponed, as agreed by the UN, said Gao, but "claims over the disputed territory by the Philippines and other neighboring countries may be made later".

Vietnam and Malaysia's submission this month, meanwhile, could prove less complex as the rules of procedure for the CLCS state: "In cases where a land or maritime dispute exists, the commission shall not consider and qualify a submission made by any of the states concerned in the dispute".

The Chinese Permanent Mission to the UN immediately lodged its opposition to the joint submission on the CLCS on May 6, while Gao Jianjun said "dialogue and cooperation in developing the region based on China's sovereignty is the ultimate solution".

In November 2002, China and the 10-member Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties on the South China Sea, which laid a political framework foundation for long-term peace and stability.

According to the declaration, countries should "undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned". It also states that "parties should exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner."

Wang Hanling said disputes submitted by ASEAN countries were not in line with the declaration, but explained they were more of an attempt to make a public "stand".

Wang said China should now secure its inherent sovereignty in the South China Sea by reinforcing the supervision and administration, and suggested the nation set up a "coast guard" force, such as the kind employed by the United States.

Several patrols had been launched this year, he said, with authorities in Guangdong province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in March sending missions to the South China Sea to curb illegal fishing.

And on April 15, the Maritime Safety Administration of China announced a fleet made up of vessels from administrations in Guangdong, Shanghai and Hainan province would conduct joint patrols with China's biggest maritime vessel Haixun 31.

Officials have also proposed using new boats, as well as retired naval ships, for missions over the next three to five years.

"Intensive, routine patrol missions are necessary but not adequate," said Gao Zhiguo, dean of the China Institute for Marine Affairs, who explained that a clear maritime strategy was vital to guarantee peace and prosperity.

China had for too long focused on the land and ignored the strategic importance of developing an efficient sea defense, leaving it lagging behind the likes of the US and the Philippines, he said, and claimed China's maritime forces were organized in a scattered departmental structure.

Wang Hanling agreed, and said: "Those maritime forces are also usually functioning separately, without proper coordination, which leads to guarding missions being unfocused and weak."

He cited the US Coast Guard as a model China should adopt as they are an "all-in-one force", providing military, multi-mission and maritime services to protect the public, environmental and economic security interests, and also patrol international waters.

"Beside strengthening naval capacity, China will have to overcome the outdated mindset of selfish departmentalism to bring a fundamental reform to the mechanism," he added.

On May 5, a week before the CLCS deadline, the Chinese foreign ministry announced the establishment of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, which will be dedicated to tackling land and maritime border disputes through diplomatic channels.

Wang said it was a significant and vital step for clearing the bottleneck in the nation's maritime development.

Navies try to resolve maritime discords

By Cui Xiaohuo and Peng Kuang (China Daily)

2009-05-15

The Chinese and US navies have been searching for ways to "alleviate disagreements" over international law on maritime rights, a senior military source said yesterday, after a US navy commander expressed keenness to resolve the issue.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted the two militaries still disagree on how to interpret the international law concerning maritime waters.

But both sides have "expressed their views candidly in the latest round of military exchange".

He said that in the latest exchange, US naval operations chief Admiral Gary Roughead and Chinese Navy chief Admiral Wu Shengli held talks in Qingdao last month during a sea parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Navy.

But some experts said the US navy will not stop spying activities in the western part of the Pacific, and reconciliation at sea may not be reached easily.

"The US has always wanted to maintain its influence in Asia through military means. It has conducted military activities around the Taiwan Straits and the East China Sea, and now wants to expand to the South China Sea," said Professor Yuan Peng, an expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

He added that the US is keen to see Southeast Asian countries in territorial disputes with China so that it can retain its influence in those countries and contain China's rise.

Wang Hanling, a researcher on maritime affairs and international law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Sino-US disputes at sea mainly arise from the different interpretation of items related to the "freedoms of navigation and overflight in an exclusive economic zone", prescribed in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"The US insists that freedom of navigation includes its current military activities in China's EEZ," Wang said.

But for the use of military force, the UN law has a specific rider: "States shall refrain from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the principles of international law embodied in the UN Charter."

This means the freedom of navigation should not be abused at the cost of violating the laws and regulations of the coastal state, Wang said.

US Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said on Tuesday that the US is attempting to overcome disagreements with China after "frank discussions" between high-level US officials and their Chinese counterparts over recent confrontations at seas.

The two nations do not see eye to eye on the issue of maritime rights, but "we're going to have to work our way through it ... so they don't continue to escalate," Willard said on the sidelines of a regional naval conference in Singapore.

"We interpret the legal aspect of international law differently," he said. "We're attempting to overcome the disagreement."

Willard said US ships would continue to navigate in the contested waters. "The UN Law of the Sea permits military activity inside exclusive economic zones, and we'll continue to do that."

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-05/15/content_7779111.htm

Reinforced patrol sails from Hainan

[China Daily 2009-05-19 ]

China is bulking up the fisheries fleet being sent to the South China Sea.

The fishery administration vessel China Yuzheng 44061, sent by Zhanjiang Division of Guangdong provincial fishery administration, has joined the fishery administration's largest vessel, China Yuzheng 44183, on its mission to protect the country's interests in the South China Sea, it was announced yesterday.

The two ships are set to sail today from Sanya on the south end of Hainan Island and head 180 nautical miles south, eventually reaching the Xisha Islands during their 15-day mission.

The joint mission is aimed at curbing increasing illegal fishing activities in the area, said Zhu Yingrong, an official with the administration of Fishery and Fishing Harbor Supervision of the South China Sea.

Zhu said the fleet will conduct routine but intense missions in the region, such as patrolling the waters of China's exclusive economic zones, protecting the interests and safety of Chinese fishermen, curbing illegal fishing activities and reinforcing the protection of China's rights and interests in the waters.

Officials last month also said more ships would be sent to patrol the "disputed" area in the next three to five years.

On March 10, the administration of Fishery and Fishing Harbor Supervision of the South China Sea in Guangzhou sent China Yuzheng 311, the country's biggest fishery patrol vessel, to curb illegal fishing.

It arrived in the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea and conducted half-month patrolling missions in the waters of China's exclusive economic zones, including the Nansha, Xisha and Zhongsha Islands.

It was joined on March 26 by the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region's largest fishery administration ship, China Yuzheng 45001.

Wang Hanling, an expert with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said this kind of patrolling mission is a "positive" move to protect China's interests and rights in the South China Sea, where a series of disputes occurred in March. He added the patrols should be "more consistent and coordinated" to guarantee China's rights and interests there.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/regional/2009-05/19/content_7792657.htm

Malaysia PM wants friendly talks

By Li Xiaokun and Jiang Wanjuan (China Daily)

Updated: 2009-06-04

Malaysia wants to settle its decades-long territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea through "friendly negotiation", the country's prime minister said in Beijing Wednesday.

Najib Tun Razak, on his first official visit to a country that is not a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since taking office in April, made the remarks when meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People。

"Malaysia has recognized the complexity of the South China Sea issue and would like to solve the problem through friendly negotiation under the guidance of international laws," reads a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry after the hour-long meeting.

The sovereignty dispute has been a barrier to better relations between China and Malaysia, the first country to forge diplomatic ties with Beijing from ASEAN countries.

In early May, Malaysia and Vietnam tendered a joint submission to the United Nations over the location of the outer limits of the continental shelf, which has a bearing on the extent of their national waters. It came one week before the May 13 deadline that the UN had set by which countries had to submit claims over extended continental shelves.

Analysts said Malaysia and Vietnam intended to define their position and rights in the South China Sea and "internationalize" the issue.

Wen said Wednesday China and Malaysia should take care of each other's "core interests" and strictly follow the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, which calls for all countries involved to settle the issue through peaceful means.

"China and Malaysia should properly handle relevant issues and jointly protect peace and stability in the South China Sea," the press release quoted the Chinese premier as saying.

During a speech at Beijing Foreign Studies University earlier Wednesday, Najib said he was determined to take Beijing-Kuala Lumpur relations to new heights. Kuala Lumpur never viewed China as a threat but as an important partner, he said.

Wang Hanling, a maritime affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Najib's remarks carried "great positive significance", compared to Malaysia's previous stance that saw it seize Chinese islands and explore for oil in that region.

The two also signed several documents of cooperation, including one on maritime science and technology. They also inked a joint action plan on strategic cooperation.

Najib said the new Malaysian government would commit to elevating relations with China and deepening cooperation in fields including natural resources and energy. The area in the South China Sea is thought to contain rich resources, including oil.

"The proposal is in line with the way Beijing expects to solve the issue," Wang said.

The hall for Wednesday's signing ceremony was not the one usually used, but the one where Malaysia's second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, late father of Najib, established diplomatic ties with Beijing at a meeting with then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai on May 31, 1974.

Wen sent an old photo to Najib of the late leaders signing the document.

"We appreciate the precious contributions the two generations of your family have made to the development of Sino-Malaysian relations," Wen said.

"I came to China not to walk in same the footsteps as my father 35 years ago, but to continue and advance the important journey he started," replied Najib. "I hope to walk faster and further."

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009malaysia/2009-06/04/content_8236877.htm

Ocean floats up agenda as sea awareness rises

By Zhang Xin (China Daily)

June 09, 2009

The promotion of peace and security in the world's oceans will be a high priority for China as maritime issues become increasingly important, a Chinese official and an analyst said on the first World Oceans Day yesterday.

"China has shouldered a bigger responsibility as it has sent naval escort forces off to Somali waters to join the international community in fighting against the rampant piracy," said Wang Hanling, an expert in maritime affairs with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"As the biggest developing country holding permanent membership of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, China should also increasingly commit itself to promoting fairness and effectiveness in international legislation to promote a sound oceanic order in the future," he said.

Noting that the promotion of maritime stability and security demands "a joint effort", Wang called upon nations to stick to the essence of the Charter of the United Nations and responsibly abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

This year, a raft of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea flared shortly before the May 13 deadline by which countries could submit proposals to the UN concerning the outer limits of continental shelves.

"It is our ocean and it is our responsibility too and we need to cooperatively find a solution in a peaceful way," Wang said.

Li Haiqing, spokesman for the State Oceanic Administration of China, said that in addition to stability and security of the oceans, the Chinese government puts the protection of the ecosystem at the top of its agenda.

"We recognize the ocean is vital to the livelihood of human beings and that it is closely linked to climate change and it is crucial to have a sustainable coastal economy and a sound ecosystem protection mechanism in China," Li said.

China has applied laws and regulations to manage sea resource exploitation and protect China's maritime interests.

In 1999, the National Maritime Protection Law was revised to step up efforts to protect the oceanic ecosystem. The Law on the Administration of the Use of Sea Areas was adopted in 2002 to regulate the exploitation of the oceans, he said.

Scientific surveys about the oceanic ecosystem have been conducted, with China setting up four survey stations in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Li also called for an overall maritime strategy and an effective matching mechanism to come out soon in China to take the nation's maritime efforts to a new level.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-06/09/content_8261461.htm

Law to protect islands' ecology

(China Daily)

Updated: 2009-06-23

Lawmakers yesterday started discussions on a draft law to step up ecology and environment of the country's offshore islands.

The draft sea islands protection law, the first of its kind in the country, was submitted to an ongoing session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee for the first review.

It also regulates exploitation of natural reserves on China's uninhabited islands.

The draft proposes that national and local governments should make plans to guide the protection and the development of inhabited and uninhabited islands.

The law should give details on the establishment of oceanic nature reserves and special protection zones on and around islands, as well as guidelines for the use of uninhabited islands.

All construction projects that are contradictory to ecological conservation purposes will be banned, and vegetation and indigenous species will be strictly protected, according to the draft.

All development projects on inhabited islands will be subjected to strict environmental impact assessments, according to the draft law. Construction and tourism activities on uninhabited islands, which are owned by the State, will be prohibited unless they are officially approved.

The State Oceanic Administration and its branches would be responsible for inspecting work concerning island protection, according to the draft.

Lawmakers will continue discussing the law but won't vote on it when the ongoing legislative session ends on Saturday, as a law usually receives three reviews before being adopted in China.

China has nearly 7,000 islands bigger than 500 sq m in its roughly 3 million sq m sea areas. The country also has more than 10,000 smaller islands.

Lack of planning was a "common problem" when islands, particularly deserted ones, were developed, Wang Guangtao, director of the NPC's environment and resource protection committee, said during yesterday's discussion.

"Some firm's random dumping of rubbish and toxic objects have turned some islands into refuse dumps," he said.

But even worse, explosions, usually seen in unregulated quarrying, have left deeper scars on China's islands.

Also, the number of islands has decreased dramatically.

Since the 1990s, Wang said, 242 islands have disappeared in the waters off coastal provinces, including Liaoning, Hebei, Fujian, and Hainan.

"Random development" without planning, however, is still going on in China, according to a real-estate developer in an island near Qingdao of Shandong province.

"The biggest problem I saw was unregulated developing at the price of ecology. Some of my peer competitors had cut plenty of trees for more space for their buildings," said Liu Chang, who started his project of residential towers about five years ago there.

"We told our potential buyers the environment on the islands would be the best, but it may not be the case if such development continues," Liu said.

Liu said he would be "the happiest one" if the draft law was passed, but he also said he was concerned about how well the laws would be enforced.

Chinese experts said many things must be done in addition to just passing the new law.

"China is still exploring how to protect its offshore islands," Wang Hanling, a maritime affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, noting more follow-up bills are needed to guarantee the prospective new law's enforcement.

The law is "aimed at protecting islands' ecological environments to stimulate sustainable development (in coastal regions)," Wang added.

South Korea and Indonesia have passed similar laws in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Though yesterday's discussion was the country's first effort on the national level to create laws addressing the islands' protection, many of its coastal provinces had introduced measures long ago.

In the island province of Hainan, where more than 90 percent of its over 280 islands are deserted, a six-year-long investigation was conducted on oceanic natural resources between 1989 and 1994.

The province has also established 12 oceanic natural protection zones, protecting rare plant and animals.

Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian have also introduced measures to protect islands.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-06/23/content_8310428.htm