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South China Sea disputes of Atlantic World's making: Lawyer

A fleet of Chinese naval ships conduct combat training exercise in the South China Sea. (File photo)

An international lawyer in Indonesia says the South China Sea territorial disputes are largely of the Atlantic World’s making and that the United States has no legitimate interest in the South China Sea.

Grossman, who is based on the Indonesian island of Bali, made the remarks on Saturday during an interview with Press TV while commenting on US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s warning to China against developing man-made islands in the South China Sea.

Speaking at a security conference in Singapore, Carter demanded China immediately stop developing islands in the South China Sea and accused it of acting “out of step with both the international rules and norms."

The annual Shangri-La Dialogue was attended by defense ministers and high-ranking military officials from China, Europe and other Asia-Pacific countries.

Grossman said that “Ashton Carter is asserting that ‘China is out of step with international rules and norms.’ To the extent that’s true, that puts China squarely in the same camp as the USA itself which is far too exceptional to be bound by international law on any issue.”

“I am no fan of the Chinese system. But let us not be confused about this. It is called the South China Sea because it is to China what the Caribbean is to the USA,” he added.

“China’s claims in the region do not arise from positions connected with the contrived status quo which arose  as a direct result of the colonial era and 20th century military conflicts largely of the Atlantic World’s making,”  he continued.

“The fact is that there are numerous conflicting claims being advanced to parts of the South China Sea by eight different nations.  These are very complicated matters which in turn raise even more complicated issues,” the political commentator noted.

“We should not forget who is making these provocative allegations. Ashton Carter is a hawk on Iran and entirely pro-Israel. He is a covert neocon who poses for what passes in the US as a progressive. He supports arming those who have seized control of Ukraine, opposed the closing of Gitmo, and is a key player in advancing the contrived ‘war on terror’ narrative as a cover for advancing US hegemony,” he said.

This handout photo taken on March 16, 2015 by satellite imagery provider Digital Globe shows a satellite image of vessels purportedly dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. (AFP photo) 

Grossman revealed that Carter has “held appointments with several US based corporations and has long been a key player on the money side of the weapons industry.”

The international lawyer said that “as for the myriad conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea, I can only repeat what I said in November 2014:

“US interests in these disputes are at best derivative and certainly linked with its chequered history in the region which, in recent decades has culminated in close alliances with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, along with somewhat looser ties with Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Brunei, all of which have claims, and conflicting claims to the South China Sea.

“It is difficult to take issue with that part of the standing US policy on these disputes, which asserts that all involved should avoid unilateral action and be guided by existing international laws and mechanisms for resolving such disputes. But the US lecturing China from afar in terms that come off as being both arrogant and hypocritical, especially considering the long history of US interventions in the Middle East, Africa and South America, is really beyond the pale.”

Washington accuses Beijing of undergoing a massive “land reclamation” program in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, and says China’s territorial claims of the man-made islands could further militarize the region.

The United States says its surveillance of  China’s artificial islands indicates that Beijing has positioned weaponry on one of the islands it has built in the South China Sea.

Citing unnamed US officials, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the surveillance imagery detected two Chinese motorized artillery pieces on one of the islands developed almost one month ago.

Beijing says it is determined to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the South China Sea.

US Navy and Singapore ships steam through the South China Sea for the second of two combined Singapore and United States naval formations during a division tactics exercise during the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2008. (File photo)

Grossman went on to say that “China is the dominant superpower in the region and certainly asserts territorial claims, which at times run so far from its own territory that it often appears to be a regional bully in these matters, but those regional countries which are asserting their own claims would do well to be very suspicious of US involvement in these matters."

“It would certainly be preferable for the various countries with a direct rather than vicarious stake in these disputes to try and reach some resolution instead of turning them into a political football to be kicked around by the USA and China,” he advised.

“Countries with a direct stake in these territorial disputes would do well to negotiate a resolution with China. Unfortunately the issues are highly politicized in each country and all of the countries involved seem to be as intractable in their position as China itself, even if they do not enjoy China's overwhelming military and economic power."

“I think as ordinary ‘politically interested’ people, the best we can do is keep a watching brief on these disputes and not be too quick to speak out of turn or in ignorance about the complicated historical, legal and political issues involved," Grossman stated.

“I would like to think that if the US can butt out and stop stirring the pot, there is a plenty of room for the countries involved -- that is, those countries with a direct stake in the South China Sea – to resolve their differences with China over these matters. It is really not up to the United States to drive the narrative.”


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