TIMUN 2009 CHAIR REPORT QUESTION OF: The Spratly Islands Debate FORUM: GA3 (Territorial Committee) STUDENT OFFICER: Arda Şener Table of Contents 1. Overview a. Introduction b. Commercial Shipping Benefits c. Commercial Fishing Opportunities d. Hydrocarbon, Oil and Natural Gases e. Timeline 2. Involved Parties a. Malaysia b. Philippines c. Republic of China (Taiwan) d. People’s Republic of China e. Vietnam 3. Notes on Possible Diplomatic Solutions a. UN-mediated Multilateral Talks b. Military Free Zone c. Commercial Shipping and Fishing Incentives d. Strict Trade Regulations by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) e. Federalized, Commerce Interim-Administration 4. Relationship with the UN a. UN Convention on the Law of the Sea b. ASEAN Involvement 5. Spratly Islands Map 6. Bibliography
1. Overview a. Introduction Spratly Islands are a group of islets, colls, reefs and islands that are in the South China sea, between Philippines and Vietnam. The dispute is mainly between, Malaysia, Vietnam, People's Republic of China (The Chinese government we all know), Republic of China (Taiwan, in case you didn't know), Philippines. The three of these delegations are in TIMUN's delegation list. First thing that comes to mind is, why such insignificant and small islands are being debated for property. Moreover, why would such islands simulate debate? Many often believe issues like small islands won't be a topic of heated debate. False. Such small and remote islands have little economic value in themselves, that is true. However, they are important in establishing international boundaries. Another can of worms is the natural resources. There are no native islanders but there are rich fishing grounds and initial surveys indicate the islands may contain significant oil and gas. Basically the areas of interest for the parties is the dominion over the South China Sea rather than the actual islands themselves. The areas of interest for the parties are: the advantages of commercial shipping the advantages of commercial fishing and significant resources of hydrocarbon. I will go over them individually to give you a very brief idea on these. b. Commercial Shipping Benefits This region is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. During the 1980s, at least two hundred and seventy ships passed through the Spratly Islands region each day, and currently more than half of the world's "supertanker traffic", by tonnage, passes through the region’s waters every year. Tanker traffic through the South China Sea: * is over three times greater than through the Suez Canal * is five times more than through the Panama Canal * has twenty five percent of the world’s crude oil passing through its waters. c. Commercial Fishing Opportunities: The People's Republic of China has predicted that the South China Sea holds combined fishing and oil and gas resources worth one trillion dollars. This figure is twice the size of Obama's economic stimulus package. This place is by far one of the most productive fishing sites in the world. The country which possesses the islands will have such a tremendous boost for their economy, the consequence can actually tip the economical balance of the modern market today. d. Hydrocarbon, Oil and Natural Gases It was in 1968, that oil was first discovered in the region. According to my sources and The Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry of the People's Republic of China, the region has: "oil and natural gas reserves of 17.7 billion tons (1.60 × 1010 kg), as compared to the 13 billion tons (1.17 × 1010 kg) held by Kuwait placing it as the fourth largest reserve bed in the world."
Naturally, this makes the possession of the islands comparable to hitting the lottery. e. Timeline 1932-1935: The PRC created a committee to reevaluate the Maps of Lands and Waters of China. This committee approved the 132 names of the islands in the South China Sea. Those islands belong Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha (Spratly) Islands. 1939-44 : With reference to the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of China, in consultation with the Navy and the government of Guangdong Province, appointed Xiao Ciyi and Mai Yunyu Special Commissioner to the Xisha and Nansha Islands respectively in 1946. Their objectives were to take over the two archipelagoes. 1946 :China declared the Spratlys as a part of the Guangdong Province, and its sovreign territory.The government seized the biggest island of Itu Aba. 1947 :The Ministry of Internal Affairs of China renamed 159 islands, reefs, islets and shoals on the South China Sea, including the Nansha Islands. Names were publicized for administrative purposes. 1947 :The Philippines claimed some of the eastern islands in the Spratly Group. 1948 :The Philippines claimed the offshore Scarborough Reef. 1951: At the San Francisco conference, Japan renounces all rights to the Spratly Islands. No resolution is made on who owns them. 1956:The Philippines built up a military base on North Danger Reef. 1961:Taiwan annexed several reefs in the northeastern part of the Spratly Group. 1969: American Navy Radar Station is built. 1974: China occupies Paracel Islands to the north of the Spratly Islands, taking them from South Vietnam. 1978: China invades six atolls in the Spratly Islands which belonged to Vietnam. 1979, 21.Dec. :Malaysia claimed Swallow Reef (Layang Layang Reef) and built a naval base. In January 1980, Malaysia further pursued their claims and annexed several reefs in the southern and south-western group. A second Malayan station was built on Amboyna Cay. 1982 : Armed conflict between Vietnam and Malysia, In result, Malaysia claimed Amboyna Cay. 1984: Brunei claimed the Louise Reef in the eastern group 1988: Chinese and Vietnamese navies engage in conflict at Johnson Reef. Two Vietnamese gunboats are sunk and seventy people die. Chinese troops have been garrisoned on the reef. 1991: Indonesia begins the annual informal meetings called â€œThe South China Sea Workshopâ€? of the six claimants to the Spratly Islands to seek a diplomatic and longlasting solution to the dispute. Malaysia initiates development of a reef for tourism. 1992: ASEAN nations and China call for restraint in pursuit of territorial claims in the Spratly Islands. 1994, November: The US oil giant Exxon signs on to a US$35 billion business deal to develop the gas fields north of Natuna Island with China. 1995,8 February: Chinese-constructed concrete markers on Mischief Reef, by 200 kilometres of Palawan Island are discovered. 1995,20-28 March: The Philippines seize Chinese fishing boats and crew. Chinese Markers are destroyed in Mischief Reef. 1995,31 March: Midway to its destination, Taiwanese naval mission of armed patrol boats to the Spratly Islands is called back.
1995, 7 April: Indonesian Foreign Affairs expresses deep concerns over Chinese maps claiming part of the huge Natuna gas fields which is to the south of the Spratly Islands 2. Involved Parties a. Malaysia Malaysia’s involvement in this territorial disoute extends back to 1979. Malaysia currently enjoys power over three islands. Yet, Malaysia has full claim over the whole chain of islands. Malaysia’s claim is based on the continental shelf. The continental shelf gets the islands under Malaysian sovereignty. b. Philippines: The Philippines started its relationship with the island when a private Philippine expedition project occupied certain islands of the Spratly Islands group in 1956. The Philippines were a trusteeship belonging to the Allied powers. Thus, the Allied forces’ protection at the time, prevented Philippines from pursuin their own ambitions related to the islands. For a while, the islands were prevented from garrisoning troops. The first claim Philippines made for the islands was in 1975. The islands were referred as Kalayaan islands. The Philippines government had engaged in a long process of oil drilling between the regions of Spratlys and the Palawan Island. Soon, in 1976, a military garrison was set up on Palawan and later, all seven of these islands. c. Republic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan’s claims are based on the fact that the Kuimintang government of Taiwan represents the true China. Both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan claims the whole of the islands chain. Both claims agree that the islands were discovered by Chinese navigators and the sea was used by Chinese fishermen since the 15th century. The Kuomintang sent a naval expedition which officially took over the islands in 1946. The expedition left a garrison on the largest islands of Itu Aba. d. People’s Republic of China China’s claims are nearly the same with Taiwan’s claims. The People’s Republic of China sees itself as the legitimate administration ruling China. They call the Spratly Islands “Nansha Islands”. The real dispute between China and Vietnam was triggered in 1988. Chinese Naval vessels sailed into the Spratlys in January. The marines immediately built defenses on the islands. Later in March, fighting precipitated between Vietnam and China in which two Vietnamese ships were sunk. China has become more belligerent in terms of politics in contemporary world affairs. The Foreign Ministry of China claims that: “The earliest discovery by the Chinese people of the Nansha Islands can be traced back to as early as the Han Dynasty. Yang Fu of the East Han Dynasty (23-220 A.D.) made reference to the Nansha Islands in his book entitled Yiwu Zhi (Records of Rarities) , which reads: "Zhanghai qitou, shui qian er duo cishi"("There are islets, sand cays, reefs and banks in the South China Sea, the water there is shallow and filled with magnetic rocks or stones"). Chinese people then called the South China Sea Zhanghai and all the islands, reefs,
shoals and isles in the South China Sea, including the Nansha and Xisha Islands, Qitou.”1 Ming Dynasty was the start of Chinese fishery at the islands. At that time, fishermen from Haikou Port, Puqian Port, Qinglan Port and Wenchang County went to the Nansha Islands to fish sea cucumber and other sea produce. The 1868 Guide to the South China Sea has accounts of the activities of the Chinese fishermen in the Nansha Islands. According to the Guide, "fishermen from Hainan Island went to Zhenhe Isles and Reefs and lived on sea cucumber and shells they got there. The footmarks of fishermen could be found in every isle of the Nansha Islands and some of the fishermen would even live there for a long period of time. Every year, there were small boats departing from Hainan Island for the Nansha Islands to exchange rice and other daily necessities for sea cucumber and shells from the fishermen there. The ships used to leave Hainan Island in December or January every year and return when the southwesterly monsoon started." Since the end of the Qing Dynasty, fishermen from Hainan Island and Leizhou Peninsula of China have kept going for fishing on the Nansha Islands. Most of the fishermen come from Wenchang County and Qionghai County. One or two dozens of fishing boats from these two counties would go to the Nansha Islands every year. e. Vietnam Vietnam calls the group of islands Truong Sa Islands. They were the part of Annam, which is regarded Vietnam’s ancestor. In 1985, an expedition assigned by king Gia Long to chart sea lanes occupied and settled the islands. In September 1973, Spratlya were declared to be part of the Phuoc Tuy province. Vietnam currently holds tree islands and that Philippines are occupying it. 3. Notes on Possible Diplomatic Solutions a. UN-mediated Multilateral Talks UN’s promise to the international community of diplomacy is slowly diminishing in current politics. Such talks could be mediated by the UN Secretary General. Also, a very important step could be made by bringing this issue to ECOSOC. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea can be reevaluated in respect to the outcome and conditions of these talks. b. Military Free Zone First step in solving a territorial dispute is complete demilitarization. The pressure and tension can be relieved through the acts of disarmament of the region. c. Commercial Shipping and Fishing Incentives Peace process must be encouraged by the UN which special incentive packages must be provided to countries which pursue the diplomatic process. Incentives should be able to balance the trade. d. Strict Trade Regulations by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) 1
“Historical Evidence To Support China's Sovereignty over Nansha Islands” http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/topics/3754/t19231.htm
If all of the nations concerned as allowed to have their private sectors take full advantage of the islands, it would be chaotic. A regulated trade spot with shipping opportunities can be shared responsibly by all nations and a possible resolution can aim at that. The trade would be regulated by the ASEAN countries’ votes. e. Federalized, Commerce Interim-Administration Spratly Islands can be governed by a joint-interim administration. Most of the resources of the Spratly Islands are unexplored. If a common administration benefits for these natural resources, all economies would benefit which is better than the status quo. 4. Relationship with the UN a. UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: The most important UN involvement and the common factor of the slightest UN involvement is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is basically the UN document that allows sovereignty over all territory in the country’s continental shelf. When the continental shelves clash or if there’s historical context involved, the territorial dispute gets bigger and bigger. b. ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Involvement Following a 1995 dispute between China and the Philippines, an ASEAN supported agreement was reached between the People’s Republic of China and ASEAN member nations. According to this proposed agreement, one country would inform the other of any sort of military movement within the disputed territory. In November 2002, a “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” was signed. 5. Spratly Islands Map
CIA World Factbook Image:
6. Bibliography “Historical Evidence To Support China's Sovereignty over Nansha Islands” August 24, 2009<http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/topics/3754/t19231.htm> “Oceans and the Law of the Sea” August 23, 2009. http://www.un.org/Depts/los/index.htm Spratly Islands Dispute” August 21, 2009. http://www1.american.edu/TED/SPRATLY.htm “Spratly Islands History Timeline” August 22, 2009. http://www.spratlys.org/history/spratly-islands-history-timeline.htm “CIA World Factbook” August 22, 2009. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pg.html “Philippines – Spratly Islands” August 22, 2009. http://travelvietnam.officeisp.net/