South China Sea: Philippines says arbitration ‘final’ says expert
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US Secretary of State Andrew Blinken’s comments came on the same day Beijing bragged about “driving away” a US vessel which it accused of illegally entering Chinese waters close to the Parcel Islands yesterday. Mr Blinken issued his written statement on the fifth anniversary of a ruling by an arbitration tribunal repudiating China’s vast territorial claims in the South China Sea, which encompass the so-called Nine Dash Line, also contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Referring to the rejection by former President Donald Trump’s administration of China’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, Mr Blinken said: “The United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea.
“We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defence commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defence Treaty.
“Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea.
“The People’s Republic of China continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway.”
The section referred to by Mr Blinker states that “each Party recognises that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes”.
Mr Blinken has made the point previously, including during a conversation with the Philippine foreign minister on on April 8 in which the State Department said he “reaffirmed the applicability” of the treaty to the South China Sea.
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The US Navy destroyer Benfold entered the waters without China’s approval, seriously violating its sovereignty and undermining the stability of the South China Sea, the southern theatre command of the People’s Liberation Army said.
A statement suggested the ship had consequently been “driven away”, adding: “We urge the United States to immediately stop such provocative actions.”
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China had no historic title over the South China Sea, a ruling that Beijing said it would ignore.
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The Benfold asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands consistent with international law, the US Navy said in a statement.
The islands are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, which require either permission or advance notification before a military vessel passes through.
The US Navy statement added: “Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the ships of all states, including their warships, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.
“By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea, and that China’s claimed straight baselines around the Paracel Islands are inconsistent with international law.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing on Monday that the United States was harming peace and stability in the region.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, more than 100 activists gathered outside a building housing the Chinese consulate to press Beijing to respect the arbitral ruling and allow Filipinos to freely fish in the South China Sea.
The crowd marched with a Philippine flag and banners reading: “China get out of the West Philippine Sea” and “China out of our waters”.
Manila refers to the part of the South China Sea that it claims as the West Philippine Sea.
Fernando Hicap, head of a federation of small fishermen groups, said: “Since our tribunal ruling victory, there were no changes.
“There’s still the presence of the Chinese Coast Guard, the Chinese militia in the West Philippine Sea.”
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