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观察者网 05-10

如果美国想要止沸,为什么还一直往火里填柴?

【文 / 周波】

近年来,印度和美国一直高唱 " 自由开放的印太 ",但并不是心心相印。挑战印度专属经济区的决定表明,华盛顿并不认为印度洋数百万平方公里的水域是 " 自由开放的 "。

美海军阿利 · 伯克级驱逐舰 " 约翰 · 保罗 · 琼斯 " 号资料图片(资料图)

俾斯麦据说有一句名言," 法律就像香肠,最好不要看它们被制作的过程 "。《联合国海洋法公约》(以下简称 " 公约 ")可能是有史以来制作的最长的 " 香肠 "。谈判进行了九年,可想而知,公约不乏妥协之处,若干模棱两可的地方可被灵活解读。

自 1982 年公约通过以来,将近 40 年过去了。美国还没有批准公约,但它的所作所为却俨然是海洋法的守护者。根据五角大楼的说法,从 2019 年 10 月 1 日到 2020 年 9 月 30 日,美军以行动挑战了 " 全球 19 个不同声索国提出的 28 项不同的过度海洋主张 "。

一个简单的问题冒出来了 : 如果公约很好,为什么美国还没有批准?如果公约不好,为什么美国要以它的名义挑战别国?

德里警惕地将印度洋作为自己的后院来守护,对中国在印度洋日益增长的影响力感到不满,这已不是什么秘密了。印度外长苏杰生说,去年印中两国士兵在边境地区的加勒万河谷发生的致命斗殴,使印度对中国的信任 " 受到严重干扰 "。

但当德里模仿华盛顿兜售 " 自由开放的印太 " 时,几乎产生了喜剧效果。因为在国际海洋法方面,印度与中国的共同点多于印度与美国的共同点。

例如,与印度一样,中国不接受公约第 298 条所述的所有争端的仲裁。印度在向美国提出抗议时表示,它认为 " 该公约没有授权其他国家在未经沿岸国同意的情况下在其专属经济区和大陆架进行军事演习或演训,特别是涉及武器或爆炸物的军事演习或演训 "。

与印度一样,中国也关注外国在其专属经济区的军事活动。中国对美军高强度和大范围的抵近侦察提出了批评。中国和印度的立场并不是孤立的。世界上有 20 多个国家对外国在其专属经济区内的军事活动有不同程度的限制。

不过,一个关键的区别是,北京对美国行径的反应是强有力的,这与德里大相径庭。至少从 1992 年起,美国一直在针对印度的海洋主张进行 " 航行自由行动 "(Fonops),但 "(印度)政府和海军更愿意对美国在专属经济区的行动保持沉默 ",印度分析师马诺伊 · 乔希在 2019 年写道," 没有印度海军试图阻挠美国军舰的记录 "。

1991-2018" 航行自由行动 " 的地区分布(图源:中国南海研究院)

中国则有从抗议、舰对舰警告到拦截等的各层级反应,尤其是当美国军舰进入中国南海岛礁附近 12 海里领海时。在海上已经发生了许多危险的遭遇。

我曾在一次国际会议上问一位美国海军高级军官,中美两国如何防止在南海发生双方都不想要的事故。他毫不犹豫地回答:" 中国舰长想说什么就说什么, 但不要挡我的道 "。

这是不可能的。如果美国在中国南海水域增加 " 航行自由行动 " 频次,越来越强大的中国人民解放军海军只会更加坚决地遏制它们。因此,至少从理论上讲,另一场危机的发生只是时间问题。

马凯硕在其《中国赢了吗》一书中假设,到 2050 年,当中国经济规模实际是美国经济规模的两倍时,美军可能会离开西太平洋,撤回到西半球距中国 11,000 公里之遥的地方。也许吧!但在那之前会发生什么呢?

对北京来说,一个根本性的问题是:如果美国想要止沸,为什么还要一直往火里填柴?是美国军舰定期到中国家门口挑衅,而不是中国军舰到美国家门口挑衅。

目前尚不清楚,在华盛顿与中国展开竞争并希望德里站在自己一边之际,美国海军为何选择宣扬其在印度专属经济区的行动。这对印度来说是一个有用的教训:权宜之计可能会在短期内奏效,但从长远看,它很少会有回报,更糟糕的是,它还可能引火烧身。

(本文原载于 2021 年 5 月 6 日《南华早报》,英文原作见下)

Why India ’ s maritime interests are closer to China than the US

India was surprised when the USS John Paul Jones, a 9,000-tonne guided missile destroyer, asserted navigational rights some 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands on April 7, inside India ’ s exclusive economic zone ( EEZ ) , without requesting prior consent.

Taken aback by the suddenness of the operation, India ’ s Ministry of External Affairs made a mild protest, saying the operation was unauthorised. It also said its concerns had been conveyed to Washington "through diplomatic channels".

If India had a choice – that is, if the US Navy made no mention of it – New Delhi would probably have pretended nothing had happened. However, the fact the incident took place less than a month after the first Quad summit and during US presidential climate envoy John Kerry ’ s visit to New Delhi was too much to ignore.

India and the United States have been part of the chorus chanting about the "free and open Indo-Pacific" in recent years, but they are not birds of a feather flocking together. The decision to challenge India ’ s EEZ suggests that Washington does not consider millions of square kilometres of water in the Indian Ocean "free and open".

Otto von Bismarck is famously reported to have said, "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea ( Unclos ) is probably the longest sausage ever made. It was negotiated for nine years, and understandably compromises were made and ambiguities that could be flexibly interpreted were found.

Almost four decades have passed since the convention was adopted in 1982. The US still has not ratified the convention, yet it behaves as if it is the guardian of maritime law. From October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020, US forces operationally challenged "28 different excessive maritime claims made by 19 different claimants throughout the world", according to the Pentagon.

A simple question arises. If the convention is good, why hasn ’ t the US ratified it? If it is not good, why would the US challenge others in the name of it?

It is no secret Delhi is not happy with China ’ s growing influence in the Indian Ocean, which India jealously guards as its own backyard. The deadly brawl between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley in the border areas last year made its trust towards China "profoundly disturbed", as Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.

But when Delhi mimics Washington to tout the "free and open Indo-Pacific", it almost has a comedic effect. India has more in common with China than with the US when it comes to international maritime law.

For example, like India, China does not accept arbitration on all disputes referred to in Article 298 of the convention. In its protest to the US, India said it believed "the convention does not authorise other states to carry out military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf".

Like India, China is concerned with foreign military activities in its EEZ. China has criticised America ’ s high intensity and large scale close-in reconnaissance. China and India are not alone. More than 20 countries in the world have restrictions on foreign military activities in their EEZs, to varying degrees.

A key difference, though, is that Beijing ’ s response to America ’ s behaviour is robust, unlike that of Delhi. The US has conducted freedom of navigation operations ( Fonops ) directed at Indian maritime claims since at least 1992, but "the [ Indian ] government and navy prefer to remain silent on US operations in the EEZ", Indian analyst Manoj Joshi wrote in 2019. "There is no record of the Indian Navy having attempted to thwart US Navy ships."

China ’ s response ranges from protests and ship-to-ship warnings to interceptions, particularly when American ships enter into the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters off Chinese rocks and islands in the South China Sea. There have been a number of dangerous encounters at sea.

I once asked a senior American naval officer at an international conference how China and the US might prevent accidents that neither wants in the South China Sea. Without hesitation he said, "The Chinese ship commander can say whatever he wants, but don ’ t sail in my way."

This is impossible. If American Fonops increase in China ’ s waters in the South China Sea, an ever-stronger PLA Navy can only become more determined to check them. Therefore, at least in theory, it is only a matter of time before another crisis occurs.

In Kishore Mahbubani ’ s book Has China Won?, he assumes that by 2050, when the Chinese economy could effectively be twice as large as the US economy, America could withdraw from the western Pacific Ocean and retreat back into its hemisphere and live 11,000km away from China. Maybe. But what would happen before then?

For Beijing, a fundamental problem exists – if the US does not want the water to boil, why does it keep throwing wood into the fire? It is the American ships that come regularly to China ’ s doorstep and not the other way round.

It is not clear why the US Navy chose to publicise its operation in India ’ s EEZ at a time when Washington wants Delhi to take its side in its competition with China. It is a useful lesson for India. Expediency might sell in the short term, but it seldom pays off in the long run and, worse still, it might backfire.

Senior Colonel Zhou Bo ( ret ) is a senior fellow at the Centre for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University and a China Forum expert

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