We mentioned in an earlier report how China and US are at increased tensions right now after a warship from China and a Us destroyer came dangerously close to each other and almost triggered action from either side. It is also reported that the US destroyer had to slow down in order to avoid collision and this is the reason why China is extremely angry at the situation. Now, we have a statement from the Chinese side as the US has already given their assessment of the situation saying that they were in international waters.
Chinese observers have now said that the US warships are using international law as a “cover” and they feel that China has “no choice” but to intercept these US warships in the Taiwan Strait. The US side, however, says that China is disregarding international practice and there is a “possibility of conflict” between the two sides if such scenes continue. It is worth noting that an analysis was carried out by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative and in their report, they have mentioned that “There has never been an unrestricted right of navigation in the convention or in general international law.” “US warships may exercise the right of innocent passage, but at the same time must respect the coastal state’s determination of whether the passage is innocent.”
The analysis also mentions that while the US can cross the Taiwan Strait under the “innocent passage” law, it is China which can decide whether the passage is an innocent one or not according to Article 25 of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. However, the Director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Gregory Poling said “Under international law, innocent passage is only relevant within a state’s 12-nautical-mile [22km] territorial sea,” and added that the Taiwan Strait which is 130km wide at its narrowest point is “far too wide to be considered territorial waters under any circumstances”. Director of the Centre for Maritime Security Studies said that “Objectively speaking, the US warships have the right to pass through the Taiwan Strait” but China has to send out its warships to deter the US as it sees this as a “tactic to bully China”.