China: We are the victims in dispute; won’t heed UN decision
China said that it was the victim in the maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea and that it would never accept any decision by the United Nations (UN) arbitral tribunal.
“The origin and crux of the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea lie in the territorial sovereignty disputes caused by the Philippines’ illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Islands since the 1970s,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeperson Hua Chunying said in an official statement posted online.
“Being a victim of the South China Sea issue, China, bearing in mind the whole situation of regional peace and stability, has been exercising utmost restraint,” she said.
Over the course of several months while the arbitration case was ongoing, China has done massive reclamation projects on several reefs in the Spratly Islands creating artificial islands capable of hosting military structures, equipment, and personnel.
The arbitral tribunal recently concluded hearings on the case particularly on the issue of jurisdiction and admissibility.
The Philippines, led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, presented its claims while China continued to refuse to participate insisting it had “indisputable sovereignty” and “historic rights” to the South China Sea.
“China opposes any move by the Philippines to initiate and push forward the arbitral proceeding,” Hua said.
“On issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, China will never accept any imposed solution or unilaterally resorting to a third-party settlement,” she said.
China claims the entire South China Sea through its nine-dash line concept which overlaps with the Philippines 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Through the arbitration case filed by at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the Philippines hopes to clarify whether China’s claim is valid or not.
Since the Philippines backed down from the Scarborough shoal standoff back in 2012, China has been effectively exercising control over waters around the Spratly Islands off the coast of Palawan and Scarborough off the coast of Subic.
Filipino fishermen have told of stories of being forcibly turned away by Chinese Marine Surveillance vessels through water cannons.
Tensions over the dispute between China and the Philippines have been high since the Scarborough shoal incident where Chinese fishermen were found illegally poaching endemic and endangered Philippine marine species.
A standoff ensued when Philippine authorities were blocked by Chinese ships from apprehending the fishermen.
“China has always adhered to and has been committed to resolving, in accordance with international law and on the basis of respecting historical facts, relevant disputes relating to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests with relevant states directly concerned through negotiation and consultation,” Hua said.
“This is China’s consistent practice, and also common practice of the international community. China urges the Philippines to return to the right approach of resolving relevant disputes through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible,” she said.
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