PH: US plan to sail through South China Sea consistent with int’l law
The plan of the United States (US) to sail naval vessels through international waters, including the South China Sea, is consistent with international laws, the Philippine government said on Saturday.
“It is important that parties are free to pass through without any intimidation or harassment, because we have rules or guidelines of international laws to follow when it comes to international waters,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over state-run dzRB radio.
A report from the Agence France-Presse, quoting a senior US defense official, said the US is mulling to send sailing warships near China’s artificial islands over the South China Sea.
The report said that this is to show that the US does not recognize the territorial claims of China over the disputed waters.
Asked to comment on the US’ move, Valte said the government is not in the position to “dictate” the actions of other nations.
“We are not in a position to dictate what another country wishes to do [in] a particular situation,” she said.
But Valte said the Aquino government supports “freedom of navigation and regional stability” over the disputed waters.
“We wish to emphasize that freedom of navigation and regional stability in that area is important because a good bulk of world trade passes through that region,” she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has earlier expressed support for the US’ plan to challenge China’s territorial claims by deploying a Navy ship near the Chinese-built islands in the disputed waters.
“It is important for the international community to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said, adding that this is a paramount concern to all countries.
Jose said the US’ move would be “consistent with international law and a rules-based order for the region.”
“Failure to challenge false claims of sovereignty would undermine this order and lead China to the false conclusion that its claims are accepted as a fait accompli,” he said.
Amid the flaring maritime dispute, China on Saturday said it would avoid the use of force in the region as the US considers sending its warships near the disputed islands.
“We have done our utmost to avoid unexpected conflicts,” Fan Changlong, vice-chair of China’s Central Military Commission, was quoted saying in an Agence France-Presse report.
Changlong said China would “never recklessly resort to the use of force, even on issues bearing on sovereignty.”
The statement came after China said that it wanted to hold joint drills in the disputed South China Sea with Southeast Asian countries.
Amid the maritime dispute, Valte said the Philippines’ relationship with China is multi-faceted.
“We have always maintained that our relationship with China is multifaceted,” Valte said. CDG