Indonesia's renaming its waters suggests again South China Sea belonging to China

By Zhang Liangfu, guest researcher with the National Institute for South China Sea Studies and part-time researcher with the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies.

Indonesia announced on Aug. 17 that it would rename the waters 200 nautical miles around Natuna Islands in the South China Sea as "Natuna Sea." But why does Jakarta want to change the name all of a sudden? An Indonesian official in the Natuna region, Hamid, said the act would help people recognize "these waters belong to Indonesia."

China and Indonesia do not have any territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea. Indonesia has never put forward any territorial claims over Nansha Islands; and neither has China done the same over Natuna Islands.

Nansha and Natuna islands are connected by the sea, on which Jakarta wanted to claim 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone that overlaps the waters within China's nine-dash line, which is an issue of delimitation of sea area and needs to be solved through negotiations in the future.

Renaming the South China Sea is not a pioneering act by Indonesia. Vietnam claimed to call the South China Sea the "east sea" in the 1990s. In 2010, the Philippines claimed to rename it as the "west Philippine sea." In recent years, some scholars from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members wanted to name it the "ASEAN Sea."

Vietnam and the Philippines also sought to rename the islands or falsify maps.

Before 1975, official documents and maps in Vietnam used Chinese names to mark Xisha and Nansha islands calling them China's territory. In 1960, The World Atlas printed by the Headquaters of the General Staff of Vietnam People's Armed Force was marked in Vietnamese: Xishan Islands (China), Nansha Islands (China).On the maps in the "Vietnam maps collection" published by the Vietnam map surveying and mapping bureau in May 1964, the "world map collection" published by the National Bureau of Surveying and Mapping in May 1972, and the "world political map" in 1974, names - Xisha and Nansha islands as Chinese names.

Yet after 1975, Hanoi renamed them - "Huangsha Islands" and "Changsha Islands."

Hanoi encroached 29 isles of Nansha Isalnds and renamed them: Nanzi Island into "Shuangzi West Island," Dunqian Shoal to "Shange Island," Nanwei Island to "Changsha Island," Anbo Shoal to "Anbang Island," Jinghong Island to "Shengcun Island" and Hongxiu Island to "Nanye Island." Manila also filed territorial requests upon several isles around Nansha in the 1970s and renamed them, "Kalayaan Island Group." In 2012, the Philippines renamed China's Huangyan Island into "Panatag Shoal."

Malaysia also delimited the isles and shoals in south Nansha Islands in the1970s, renaming them as well. Countries surrounding the South China Sea sought to "desinicize" the South China Sea and islands to "legalize" their illegal aggression acts.

They want to confuse the public when invading China's territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in the South China Sea, but it won't work.

It simply reflects their ambitious acts to infringe on China's territorial sovereignty and maritime interests. China is the first country to discover and name the South China Sea and its islands, while attaining sovereignty and exploration in the region. The South China Sea, islands and isles had witnessed a period of time when it was nameless and then had become more well-known. The Chinese had granted them names after navigating and fishing there.

"Uneven surface of rising tides, and isles and rocks emerge when tides decline" is the recognition of the South China Sea and its islands, isles, shoals and sea rocks by ancient Chinese, who called them "Shitang, Changsha, Qianli (a thousand miles) Shitang, and Wanli (ten thousand miles) Shitang ".

Fishermen from China's Hainan Island went fishing there, while taking up residence and farming a long time ago.

They compiled a "secret handbook" for "waterway documents" and the "biography of navigation in South China Sea," according to which Hainan fishermen recorded the geography, climate, water, creature, seafood position, number, order, size, color and legends and named 98 places including 22 in Xishan Islands and 76 in Nansha Islands, some of which have been used nowadays.

When Great Britain, France and United States conducted surveys in the South China Sea, they borrowed names from the Chinese.

Since the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD -1912 AD) and beginning of the Republic of China, the Chinese governments had published four official releases of the names and surveys, respectively in 1909, 1935, 1947 and 1983.

In 1909, Lizhun visited Xisha Islands for surveying and naming them. In 1935, the administration of Republic of China released a "Chinese-English glossary of islands and isles in South China Sea."

In 1947, Beijing released a "new and altered names of islands and isles in the South China Sea."

On April 24, 1983, the Committee on Geographical Names of the People's Republic of China was authorized to release "Part of the standard Chinese names of islands in the South China Sea," where Beijing claimed sovereignty over the islands and isles - Xisha, Zhongsha, Dongsha and Nansha islands.

Except China, no other nation around the South China Sea has kept such detailed systematic records along with well-documented history of naming and claiming sovereignty over islands and isles in the region. Those countries are engaging in reckless actions by "changing names," which reveal further evidence that China holds a long-standing position and irrefutable sovereignty over South China Sea islands and surrounding sea areas.

Meanwhile, Beijing should attach greater importance to the name standardization and management work over islands in the South China Sea to safeguard its territorial integrity and maritime interests.