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China hits back at G7 over sea reclamation

From left, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Japanese President Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, European Council President Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama, walk to a family photo during the G-7 summit at Schloss Elmau hotel near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP

MANILA, Philippines - China continues to ignore calls to stop large-scale reclamation in the South China Sea while slamming the Group of Seven nations for being “out of step.”

The G7 leaders issued a communiqué on Monday voicing opposition to Beijing’s large-scale reclamation and other coercive activities in the disputed waters.

Without naming countries, the G7 leaders strongly opposed the use of intimidation, coercion or force, as well as any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo, such as large-scale land reclamation.

The G7, which comprises the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, was concerned about tensions in the region and called for countries to abide by international law.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that the international community has formed a just opinion with regard to the merits behind issues concerning the East and South China Seas.

“What the G7 does and says are way out of step with the facts and the internationally recognized principles,” Hong said in a press conference in Beijing.

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He said the Chinese government has never recognized the “status quo” of the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands and its affiliated islands as well as some maritime features of the Spratly Islands, which they called Nansha.

“China’s construction on relevant Nansha islands and reefs falls entirely within China’s sovereignty, and other countries have no right to interfere,” Hong said.

China has been exercising maximum restraint, he said.

Hong, however, warned that, “as a sovereign state, China will make necessary response to any attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Philippines said the statement from the G7 reflects the emerging confluence of global public opinion on the importance of peaceful conflict resolution.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the statement of the G7 countries also mirrors the position of the Philippines over the issue.

“Indeed, freedom of navigation is essential to the flourishing of global trade and commerce,” Coloma said.

On relations between the Philippines and China, Coloma said President Aquino himself affirmed the friendship between the peoples of both countries when he cited landmark events dating back to the 19th century in his speech before the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. last Monday night.

Coloma said this was a reiteration of the joint statement Aquino made with then Chinese President Hu Jintao during his visit to China in 2011 – “that Philippines-China relations are not defined” by the maritime dispute issue.

“Hence, both countries acknowledge the importance of people-to-people relations,” Coloma said.

But even if the Philippines is committed to improve relations with China amid the South China Sea dispute, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Philippines could no longer thresh out the maritime row through bilateral negotiations.

“The multilateral approach is an approach where all claimants to South China Sea are involved… How does one enforce a claim where other …(claimant-countries) are also making a stake on those areas?” Lacierda said.

Isolated

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said China was bringing itself closer to being isolated because of its continuous reclamation activities in the region.

Angara, vice chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, viewed the activities of China as something akin to past conquests and thus no longer an accepted practice.

“China is and will be increasingly isolated because of its unilateral actions. It’s a multilateral world. People are trying to work together, nations and states are working together and here you have China that is reverting to centuries-old strategy. What it’s doing is tantamount to a modern day conquest,” Angara said.

“There is no longer invasion. War is already outlawed in the UN and what they are doing by reclaiming territories is akin to conquest in the olden times. So there should be no place for that in a world of civilized nations,” he added.

Angara said China should realize that as a great power, it also has great responsibilities in this day and age.

He aired his hope that China would heed the statements made by world powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom and that it cannot just exercise untrammeled or unlimited power.

It has been reported that China wants to engage in bilateral talks with the Philippines and the other nations with claims to the disputed waters and to explore the possibility of joint exploration and resource sharing as a means to avoid conflict.

If this is true, Angara said China should make a formal offer so that the proper authorities such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) can carefully study this.

The DFA had likewise noted the many attempts to stop China from encroaching into Philippine waters through bilateral talks, but all these have been to no avail.

Though the Philippines has pursued an arbitration case against China in the UN, Angara said communication channels should always remain open between the two sides. – With Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy

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