After US rejects China sea claims, PH defense chief tells Beijing: Comply with arbitral ruling, heed Unclos
MANILA, Philippines—After the United States rejected as illegal most of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday (July 14) called on the Chinese government to comply with the 2016 arbitral ruling nullifying the Chinese claims and abide by international law.
“We urge China to comply with the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, and abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos) to which it is a signatory,” Lorenzana said in a statement released a few hours after the US issued its latest statement rejecting China’s claim of owning nearly the entire South China Sea.
The US branded China’s expansive claims across most of the South China Sea as “completely unlawful.”
“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” said the US statement quoting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said.
China’s “campaign of bullying to control” offshore resources across much of the area was “illegal,” he said.
The US also expressed support to the 2016 South China Sea ruling at The Hague, which China refused to recognize and accept.
The decision invalidated Beijing’s claims and declared it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
The ruling came down shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office. Instead of seeking international help to enforce it, however, Duterte swept it aside and cozied up to China. He traveled to Beijing to woo the Chinese for aid and investments.
The US said that based on the tribunal ruling, China’s claims have “no basis in international law.”
“In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law,” said Pompeo’s statement, referring to the initials of People’s Republic of China. “The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims,” Pompeo said.
The statement came as the tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines marked its 4th anniversary.
The US now rejects China’s claims to waters off Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. China reacted by calling the US a “troublemaker” in the South China Sea.
“Any PRC action to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters – or to carry out such activities unilaterally – is unlawful,” Pompeo said.
The US said China has no valid claims in Philippine-claimed areas Scarborough Shoal, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef and Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
It also cannot legally claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei’s EEZ and Natuna Besar (off Indonesia).
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including waters claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Lorenzana urged China to “heed the call of the community of nations to follow international law and honor existing international agreements.”
US sides with Asean
Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice and West Philippine Sea advocate Antonio Carpio, said the new US statement was “as strong as it can get” in support of the arbitral ruling.
“The US now champions the right of five Asean coastal states — Philippines, Vietnam Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia — to their inherent right to their own EEZs in the South China Sea that is denied them by China under the nine-dash line,” he said.
Maritime expert Prof. Jay Batongbacal also sees the US statement as a reinforcement of the status of the South China Sea arbitration award as the authoritative interpretation and application of Unclos in the South China Sea.
“It takes side of the Southeast Asian countries with respect to key submerged features that China had been claiming (Mischief Reef, Second Thoas Shoal, James Shoal, Vanguard Bank, Natuna Sea) without legal basis,” he said.
“It takes sides with Asean as to their lawful maritime jurisdictions,” he added.
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