China must obey international rules in the South China Sea but the US can ignore them in Diego Garcia.

Jul 3, 2020

China is rightly criticised for building islands for military purposes in the South China Sea whilst ignoring an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) brought by the Philippines. But what of the US in Diego Garcia?

With the cooperation of the UK, the US has occupied Diego Garcia and turned it into a vast military base in defiance of an ICJ advisory opinion and an overwhelming vote by the UN General Assembly.

I wonder if our media know where Diego Garcia is or can even spell its name! Let alone know anything about its history.

Diego Garcia is very significant because the US, with UK cooperation, has defied international rules and norms to build an enormous military base from which it is able to attack a wide arc of countries including Southern China.

Consider the following:

  • Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos Islands. Chagos is an archipelago scattered across the middle of the Indian Ocean.  It was the last British possession in Africa.
  • In 1965 it was excised by the British from Mauritius and renamed the ‘British Indian Ocean Territory’.
  • Between 1968 and 2003 the entire population of about 2000 people was rounded up by the UK and forcibly removed from BOT to Mauritius, Seychelles and Britain.
  • One of the islands, Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Archipelago was leased in 1966 by Britain to the US for 50 years with a 20-year extension option, despite the island being claimed by Mauritius.
  • The US has built an enormous airforce and naval base on Diego Garcia. It became fully operational in 1968 and now has over 5,000 US service personnel and contractors. It was used as a base for attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.  It is a key US military base in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Amongst other things, it is used for bomber training missions over the South China Sea. It was used for rendition flights.
  • In 2017 the UN General Assembly voted by a large majority(94-15) to refer the request for an advisory opinion on Diego Garcia to the International Court if Justice.
  • In September 2018, 13 of the 14 judges of the ICJ concluded that the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia were illegally separated from Mauritius.
  • In May 2019 the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly(116-6) to endorse the Court’s opinion that the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia, belonged to Mauritius. Apart from the US and the UK only four countries AUSTRALIA, Hungary, Israel and the Maldives voted in favour of the British neo-colonial claim.
  • In November 2019, Britain refused to abide by the ICJ opinion and for the US to leave Chagos/Diego Garcia.
  • This year, the UN published a map showing Chagos/Diego Garcia as part of Mauritius.

Despite all this, the US sits tight on its key military base of Diego Garcia which is thousands of kilometres from its mainland.  In contrast, China’s building of islands in the South China Sea is adjacent to its own territory. China is ringed by enormous US bases particularly in Japan and South Korea.

Presumably, the US will stay on Diego Garcia until 2036 when the lease, granted illegally by the UK, expires.

Our mainstream media reminds us incessantly of China’s action in the South China Sea.  But is scarcely publishes a word about the serious breach of international rules and norms by the UK and the US in Diego Garcia and elsewhere.  As always, our media and the government is drawn along in the US slipstream.

The dishonest and dangerous anti- China paranoia in Australian mainstream media is revealed time and time again. It may be just ignorance and laziness rather than prejudice.

We saw an example of this  by Phillip Coorey in the AFR on Wednesday this week.. He said ‘…the concern is that China does not adhere to the rules based order’. He should  know better. The US,China and Australia abide by the ‘rules based order’ when it suits as I outlined above. Even more importantly think of the illegal war that the US with our support waged against Iraq with disastrous consequences for millions of people.

For more details concerning Diego Garcia see the two following links:


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