US to China: Respect law of the sea

The United States supports the Philippines’ continued calls upon the People’s Republic of China to respect the international law of the sea in the South China Sea

US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price | Photo : AFP

The United States on Tuesday called on China to recognize the arbitral ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea amid reports of Chinese vessels swarming in the West Philippine Sea.

“The United States supports the Philippines’ continued calls upon the People’s Republic of China to respect the international law of the sea in the South China Sea, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and its legal obligations pursuant to the 2016 arbitral ruling,” US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said.

Price, in a statement posted on the US State Department website, said Washington is behind Manila in asserting its right over the disputed waters under the 2016 ruling of a Hague-based arbitral tribunal which favored the Philippines against Beijing’s nine-dash line claim.

Likewise, he lambasted China for “interfering” with the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolks in the West Philippine Sea after reports of PRC vessels swarming in the area.

“The reported escalating swarms of PRC vessels in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the Spratly Islands interfere with the livelihoods of Philippine fishing communities, and also reflect continuing disregard for other South China Sea claimants and states lawfully operating in the region,” he said.

Price also said the US shares the Philippines’ concerns over an “unsafe encounter” between the PRC Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.

“Furthermore, we share the Philippines’ concerns regarding the unsafe encounter that the PRC Coast Guard initiated with Philippines naval forces in the South China Sea, as documented before the Senate of the Philippines on 14 December,” he said.

The US official is referring to the unnumbered resolution adopted by the Senate of the Philippines expressing its grave concern over the alleged bullying of China in the West Philippine Sea.

In the video shown before Philippine lawmakers, the China Coast Guard forcefully retrieved rocket debris from the Philippine Navy, contrary to earlier claims of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines that the Philippine side returned the debris after a “friendly consultation.”

Price reiterated Washington’s commitment to the Philippines — one of its oldest allies in Asia.

“The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in upholding the rules-based international order and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law,” he said.

Both the Philippines and China are signatories of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea — which states the 200 nautical miles off the territorial sea of a country is its exclusive economic zone, including Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank.

China deplores US meddling

Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines took exceptions on what it termed as unfounded accusations made by the US Department of State that attempted to stir up troubles and drive a wedge between China and the Philippines.

“We strongly deplore and firmly oppose this,” said the embassy in a statement released to Philippine media.

“Over the past few years, with the joint efforts of all parties concerned, the South China Sea situation has maintained overall stability. Separated by only a strip of water, China and the Philippines belong to the Asian family and have stayed friendly for thousands of years,” the embassy said.

It said it is only natural for neighbors to have differences.

“The two countries share the Asian wisdom of settling differences through dialogue and consultation. Under the strategic guidance of our two heads of state, China and the Philippines have agreed to place South China Sea disputes at a proper place in the bilateral relations and manage them properly through dialogue and consultation,” the statement continued.

The Chinese accused the US of meddling in the South China Sea.

“What the US has done is not to help anyone but to serve its own geopolitical interests,” the statement read.

“China’s stand on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear-cut. The Chinese and Philippine peoples have the will and capability to properly handle maritime disputes through friendly consultation, and jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”


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