`Why does US want to ink UN convention on seas?`

China has questioned the US` interest in signing a UN convention on maritime law.

Last Updated: May 26, 2012, 15:06 PM IST

Beijing: China has questioned the US` interest in signing a UN convention on maritime law, terming it as an attempt by Washington to find a legal framework to interfere in South China Sea (SCS) region where Beijing is locked up in maritime dispute with host of nations.

As US Senate deliberated to join the UN Convention on Law of Seas endorsed by 160 countries and EU, which Washington avoided all along, Chinese state-run Xinhua commentary questioned its timing saying it exposed "selfish intentions" of America to get involved in SCS disputes.

"As US turns its national security focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, its willingness to join the convention is a means to find a legal framework to interfere with issues in SCS and elsewhere, as well as maximise its strategic interests in political, economic and military fields around the world," it said.

It also attacked the comments by John Kerry, the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations during a hearing on the convention that China and other countries are "staking out illegal claims in the SCS and elsewhere”.

Kerry said that becoming a party to the treaty would provide an immediate boost to US credibility "as we push back against excessive maritime claims and illegal restrictions on our warships or commercial vessels”.

The reason why US once refused to sign the treaty is that the treaty`s provisions will limit the free navigational rights of US warships in other countries` exclusive economic zones.

However, the US’ attitude toward the convention is now changing, the commentary said.

It quoted Zhang Haiwen, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs under the State Oceanic Administration as saying that the US has realised the disadvantages of not signing the convention, which impaired its role as a leader in global maritime issues.

Zhang said the convention is the fruit of over a decade of international negotiations and the product of the balance of different interests.

It provides fundamental and principled provisions for maritime activities for the whole of mankind.

"But the convention itself cannot solve territorial disputes," Zhang referring to attempts by Philippines to take its dispute over an island with China in SCS to UN invoking provisions of the convention.

Besides Philippines, China has disputes over islands in SCS with Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

Zhang said China`s territorial claims over some islands and shoals in the South China Sea have sufficient historical evidence and legal bases, and have been recognised by the international community over a long period of time.

"It is dangerous that some US politicians are expanding US claims and raising its degree of interference. This will aggravate regional tensions and is not conducive to resolving issues," the commentary said.

PTI