In the context of the PRC charm offensive at ASEAN (leavened by a sharp slap at Philippine’s President Aquino), the Beijing Review has published a detailed explanation of “core interests” that also provides some pretty significant looking and novel interpretations of China’s South China Sea claims.
In the article, dated August 26, China’s declaration of key interests misinterpreted, the anonymous author rehashes the evolution of the “core interest” concept since 2005, including “territorial sovereignty” as a bedrock value that cannot be compromised and must be defended by any and all means including armed force if necessary.
However, some media, think tanks and military officers have misinterpreted China’s announcement of its core interests as a regional policy shift and an external show of strength. Their inaccurate portrayals have undoubtedly influenced Washington’s China policy.In July 2010, the Japanese and U.S. media quoted an anonymous American expert as saying that China has included the South China Sea in the country’s core national interests, adding that the United States, Japan and India should join hands to contend against China on the issue.However, no internal or public Chinese document or declaration at the time made claim to the entirety of the South China Sea—it has merely asserted its sovereignty over certain islands and islets in South China Sea, and stated that it will engage in negotiations and dialogues when disputes arise. China is committed to the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea and respects and will maintain the freedom of navigation on the sea….
The false rumors have spread from the United States, Japan and some Southeast Asian countries that China has laid claim to the entirety of the South China Sea and will commit to an area denial strategy in the region. It is believed that these inaccuracies aim to escalate maritime disputes between China and its neighboring countries around the South China Sea, creating tensions that intend to justify the U.S. “pivot to Asia.”
If this position holds, it seems the PRC is shifting away from the anachronistic nine dash line to a more UNCLOS-friendly restatement of its South China Sea claims as stemming from its sovereignty over specific above water features.
Source for map illustration: http://globalbalita.com/2013/04/20/no-useable-oil-in-disputed-areas-us/