China should adhere to South China Sea ruling — US defense exec
MANILA, Philippines — China should follow international law and recognize an international court ruling stating that its historic claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis, according to a senior US defense official.
Dr. Joseph Felter, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, told a small group of journalists on Wednesday that the 2016 ruling was a “clear statement” that China’s massive claims of the disputed waters are without basis.
The official was asked to respond to a question on Washington’s strategy to get Chinese ships out of Scarborough Shoal. In 2012, the US brokered a deal for both Philippines and China to resolve a standoff in the disputed shoal. Only the Philippines withdrew its ships, and China has controlled it since then.
The incident prompted the Philippines to lodge a maritime case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In 2016, the court ruled that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights in the South China Sea, including Scarborough Shoal.
China has refused to recognize the ruling and continues to assert “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who came into power two weeks after the verdict came out, chose to seek warmer ties with China and played down the ruling in exchange of economic investments from the Asian superpower.
The US, the Philippines’ oldest treaty ally, claims it does not take sides in territorial claims in the disputed waters, but has expressed interest in the peaceful settlement of the rival claims.
“What the US can do is to encourage all states to follow international law and let’s just hope that international law prevails and not coercion or efforts to undermine sovereignty of other countries to enforce illegal claims,” Felter told reporters.
While the official did not directly address China’s reneging of the agreement on the Scarborough Shoal standoff, he emphasized that the US does not recognize claims that have no basis under the international law.
“Certainly, the 2016 ruling was a very clear statement by an international body that China’s claims have no basis in international law,” he said. /je
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