Japan, Australia back PH in row
MANILA, Philippines — Japan and the Philippines have agreed to work closely together to maintain peace in the Asia-Pacific region even as Australia reaffirmed its “strong support” for the country’s 2016 arbitral victory over the West Philippine Sea.
During a summit teleconference with President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga “expressed his opposition to the continued and strengthened unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.”
Suga also “shared grave concerns about recent developments in China, including the Coast Guard Law,” the Japanese Embassy said in a statement.
Under China’s new law, its coast guard is allowed to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
It can also “demolish” other countries’ structures built on China-claimed reefs and to board and inspect vessels in waters it considers under its jurisdiction.
Duterte and Suga vowed to work together toward the maintenance of peace and stability in the region under the rule of law such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the Japanese Embassy added.
All must adhere to int’l law
Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson told CNN Philippines’ “The Source” that all countries must adhere to international law—including the Unclos—governing international waterways.
“We are strong supporters of the arbitral award. And, of course, we hold with the Philippines’ position as outlined at the UN,” Robinson said.
About 65 percent of Australia’s international trade passes through the South China Sea, he added.
“Australia has taken a very long-standing principled position about the South China Sea. It’s really important to us that there will be unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation … There have been rules and norms and laws that have been put in place after many years subscribed to by basically all countries in the world that support a rules-based approach to the law of the sea … governing how we all use those critical waterways, not just in the South China Sea but all international waterways,” Robinson said.
The Philippines won in 2016 the arbitral award that upheld its sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and rejected Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea.
But in his recent pronouncements, the President had said that China was in control of the West Philippine Sea. He added that the 2016 arbitral ruling was “a mere scrap of paper [that] should be thrown in the wastebasket.”
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