China Refuses to Back Down from Nine-Dash Line

Chinese Coast Guard Ship

Chinese Coast Guard Ship

BBC, Iman Sheikh

In the South China Sea, The People’s Republic of China has claimed the largest portion of territory based on a nine-dash line drawn after World War II, which includes the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Despite having made the vague claim public in 1947, China has not formally or specifically defined their claim to the area within the dashes. This claim from China has called forth many disputes amongst other nations who do not recognize China’s declaration or accept its ambiguity. 

China’s primary argument for their claim is based upon historical claims dating back centuries to when the empire first began exploring the sea. The Chinese government claims that they were the first to settle, trade and protect the sea and therefore have a historical legitimacy to a large portion of the region. Allegedly, the Chinese discovered many of the Spratly and Paracel Islands, named the formations, harvested the fish-filled waters, and patrolled the area due to the Chinese Navy.

When asked for a direct statement on their stance on the nine-dash line, China replied, “China will not give up anything in the nine-dash line because we have not only historical but legal claim of it.” China continued on to state, “China does not claim ‘almost, virtually, nearly all,’ or the ‘entire’ South China Sea. It’s the media that keeps highlighting this statement. China's official stance is that it claims all rocks, islands, atolls, and reefs within the nine-dash line.” 

However, over several of the past decades, China has butted heads with Vietnam and the Philippines over various islands. During the council, Japan made the point of how these nations, have claimed parts of the nine-dash line, which contradicts China’s historical claim to the South China Sea.

China then moved on to display Vietnam’s recognition and support of China’s declaration of the South China Sea through a letter they had sent to the Chinese Premiere in 1958. 

Vietnam informed China that it does not recognize China’s nine-dash line as a historical claim. China then proceeded to inquire whether Vietnam is aware of the letter their government wrote in regards to the China’s claim of the South China Sea, who responded that they are aware of the letter but are also aware of China not following all the set promises in the letter since the dispute.

Tension rose between China and Vietnam as the former asked Vietnam if they would retract any other declarations they have made in the past with other nations, as they are doing so with China. Vietnam countered China’s attack by stating that their belief is that the basis of these declarations are the agreement from both nations, and if both parties are unable to uphold the set agreements, the declaration loses its validity. 

Vietnam's' final statement went as follows, “Vietnam is not retracting the declaration between themselves and China, but they will not follow through with the declaration until issues have been resolved.”