China maritime patrol Hou Jiansen/ZumaPress

Evitar el conflicto en el Mar de China Meridional

OXFORD – Cuando una aeronave estadounidense de reconocimiento, P8-A, volaba recientemente cerca del Arrecife Fiery Cross en las Islas Spratly en el Mar de China Meridional, la armada china le instó ocho ocasiones a irse del área. El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de China, Wang Yi, señaló que “la determinación de China de salvaguardar la soberanía e integridad de su territorio es firme como una roca.” El Secretario de Defensa estadounidense, Ashton Carter, respondió que “[N]o debe haber duda sobre esto: los Estados Unidos seguiremos haciendo actividades por aire, mar u otros medios que las leyes internacionales nos permitan como hacemos en otros lugares del mundo”. ¿Esto quiere decir que es inminente un conflicto entre China y los Estados Unidos en el Mar de China Meridional?

En 1995, cuando yo trabajaba en el Pentágono, China empezó a construir estructuras en el Arrecife Mischief, que las Filipinas reivindican y que está mucho más cerca de sus costas que de las de China. Los Estados Unidos emitieron un comunicado de no tomar partido sobre las reivindicaciones convergentes acerca de las alrededor de 750 rocas, atolones, islotes, cayos y arrecifes que integran las Islas Spratlys, que cubren una área significativa –425,000 kilómetros cuadrados (164,000 millas) – del Mar de China Meridional. Instamos a que las partes involucradas resolvieran sus disputas de forma pacífica.

Sin embargo, los Estados Unidos tomaron una postura firme en cuanto a que el Mar de China Meridional, que incluye importantes rutas marítimas de embarques de petróleo desde Medio Oriente y transporte de contenedores de Europa, y sobre el que aeronaves militares y comerciales vuelan normalmente, era un tema que debía tratarse en el seno de las Naciones Unidas con arreglo al Tratado de Derecho Internacional del Mar, (UNCLOS, por sus siglas en inglés).

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