There is that system imposed by the US called the “rules-based” principle. On the surface, there is no reason to object, thinking that indeed its application is based on the rule of law without clarifying whether this has the approval of international law. As vaguely outlined by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, “Our administration is committed to leading with diplomacy to advance the interests of the United States and to strengthen the rules-based international order,” he said. “The alternative,” he continued, “is a world in which might makes right and winners take all, and that would be a far more violent and unstable world for all of us.”
Unlike those laws recognized as principles of international law, US enunciated “rules-based” principles are paradigms suited to advance and protect the interest of a foreign power. Rules-based principles are, in truth, fictitious applications of international law, pretending to possess the image of international law.
There are many instances of these rules-based principles that today are being projected as part of intentional law through the US-controlled international media, particularly the social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. It is the US that design and demarcates this fictitious norms when obviously, they are influenced and controlled by the US to blindly apply this principle unaware that no international law is involved much that they were unilateral decisions imposed by the US, commonly understood as “hegemonism.”
For instance, the US imposes its “rules-based” principle to freely navigate in the Taiwan Strait, a narrow passage that separates China from Taiwan. As often repeated by political commentators, how would the US react seeing Chinese warships passing regularly to patrol off the coast of California or circling the coast of Hawaii? These are nagging questions the Chinese authorities ask, for obviously, they constitute provocation.
While it can be said that US naval task force, comprising of several warships, are merely exercising their right to freedom of navigation and do not violate the demarcated boundaries comprising the territorial waters of states, can China accept such act of routinely patrolling their offshore as an exercise of freedom of navigation? China has repeatedly accused this conduct of the US in the South China Sea as hegemonism or a milder form of “gunboat diplomacy” to dominate and exert influence in the Strait of Taiwan Strait.
Could the US insist on freedom of navigation that regularly visiting the area amounts to inspecting whether the other side is behaving according to its prescribed rules-based principle? Would this not constitute an attempt to exert power and influence over areas outside of international law as in the Taiwan Strait?
Notably, the waterway that separates China from Taiwan still has an area to allow ships to navigate under the principle of free passage. That area which is less than three (3) miles in width allows international shipping to navigate. That portion of the waterway is the area where the US navy and its allies like the UK, and Australia now pass unimpeded by China.
The same rules-based principle is being unilaterally adopted by the US and UK navies in the Black Sea to stoke the Russian fleet in Sevastopol. But things changed when Russia opted to take back Sevastopol from Ukraine on February 23, 2014 annulling the transfer made by then Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev which was not approved by the Supreme Soviet.
Historically, Sevastopol has always been a part of Russia. It was Russia that liberated Crimea from the Ottoman empire and later from Nazi Germany. Ambiguity to the status came in when Khrushchev handed Crimea to Ukraine. Seldom knew that Khrushchev was a Ukrainian. The Western interest to get Sevastopol back is to strategically deprive Russia of its only outlet to the Mediterranean.
The Black Sea, where Crimea and the port of Sevastopol is located, is enclosed by counties littoral to the sea beginning with Turkey in the South which guards the narrow strait of Dardanelles and a narrower body of water called Sea of Marmara. Ankara, the capital of Turkey is located in between. The Strait Dardanelles is Russia’s only outlet to the Mediterranean.
In the north, Ukraine is partly covered by Crimea which includes the historic town of Yalta and the big Russian naval base of Sevastopol. In the east is Georgia and just above it is Russia, Ukraine, Moldovia, and to the West Romania and Bulgaria.
Strictly speaking, the Black Sea should not be open to international shipping except for countries littoral to the sea. The Montreux Convention signed in 1936 opened the Black Sea to merchant vessels subject to Maritime Traffic Regulations. Warships belonging to non-riparian States are subject to specific restrictions on the maximum tonnage and duration of stay in the Black Sea.
All aircraft carriers, whether or not belonging to riparian states, cannot pass through the Turkish Straits. Only submarines belonging to riparian states can pass for the purpose of rejoining their base for the first time after their construction or purchase, or for the purpose of repair outside the Black Sea.
The rules that guide navigation and entry into the Black Sea now form part of international law, having been ratified by international convention. Nonetheless, there are still rules that the US and its allies must observe. What has irritated Russia is the seeming arrogance of US and UK warships operating in the Black Sea. The UK destroyer HMS Defender was chased off by the Russian navy last June 23, 2021 after it attempted to strike the Russian navy in Sevastopol.
On October 3, 2021 US destroyer identified as USS Chafee information with the US navy’s Ticonderoga class missile guided cruiser was expelled by the Russian navy in the Sea of Japan which then was engaged in a military exercise with China in the Sea of Japan.
These are increasing incidents of the US nibbling areas hoping that China and Russia would not resist to justify their claim of their rules-based principle over the area. This provocation could result in the implied acceptance of the area as part of their rules-based principle to gradually accept as part of international law by customary practice.
Up to now, the US has failed to understand why China insists that countries seeking recognition of China must, as a pre-condition, adhere to the One-China policy. In the event of conflict between China and Taiwan, countries are obligated to recognize China because of the One-China Policy. China’s attack or defense of Taiwan can never be interpreted as aggression. China can always raise the act of self-defense, Taiwan being a part of China’s sovereignty and territory. It is those countries like the US, Australia, Japan or UK that may come to the defense of Taiwan that may stand as an aggressor.
The US is having a hard time understanding that its defense of Taiwan constitutes a violation of the One-China Policy. An attack by China over Taiwan would certainly not constitute aggression, such that Taiwan is part of China and has sovereignty over the island.
Taiwan remains part of China, and any country who might stand in its defense can be considered an aggressor against China. This squarely puts in question the rules-based principle because China wants to apply the very substance of international law, of which the sovereignty of the state is indivisible and cannot be violated. Alliance with Taiwan or with other states treated as lacking the element of a state becomes an aggressor by collateral application of international law.
This explains why Russia has put a red line in forbidding Ukraine from joining NATO or for Taiwan to join AUKUS for that could commit them to go to war with China or Russia which many believe they are not prepared to face.