Treat China fairly in maritime dispute

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on China to avoid taking actions that would result in conflict ("Avoid conflict, Aussie PM urges China"; Jan 20).

However, he should be aware that peace, or conflict, lies not in the hands of China, but that of the United States and even Australia.

It is easy to achieve peace - just treat China equitably.

The US accuses China of impeding freedom of navigation, but cannot point to a single case where China has hampered freedom of navigation.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also carried out reclamations, and have done so longer than China has. Japan's reclamations at Okinotorishima in the Pacific are more massive than China's.

But the US and Australia call out only China and are deafeningly silent on these other countries.

US angst against China - besides the claim by US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel that the reclamations spoil the fengshui of South-east Asia - is over the pace and scope of China's reclamations.

But pace and scope are not necessarily violations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Sailing of the warship USS Lassen and flying B-52 jets into territories that China claims - and cajoling other South China Sea claimants to join these actions - while the issue is under deliberation at the international court, are moves reminiscent of scenes in Hollywood westerns, where a gun-toting magnate gathers a lynch mob in front of the sheriff's office just in case an accused is declared innocent by the court.

The US and Australia call for China to resolve the maritime claims issue through international law.

However, the rule of law, of which presumption of innocence is a cornerstone, seems to be furthest from their minds when it comes to China.

Chang Wen Lam (Dr)

Hong Kong