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US: Int'l community should urge China to follow Hague ruling

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – The international community is expected to urge China to abide by the ruling of the international tribunal on its arbitration case against the Philippines, a US Department of State official said on Tuesday.

US Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Colin Willett said that the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands will push for a more constructive diplomatic process that will reduce tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

"And so I think it is on us in the international community who have all benefited so much from a rules-based order, where international law provides for all countries to meet each other on a level playing field, to make clear to Beijing that it is in their interest to abide by a ruling and to uphold the international law that has been beneficial not just to the region but to China itself," Willett said in a conference call with members of the press on Tuesday.

The US State Department official added that the US sees the case as an "important inflection point" as it would determine the kind of order that Asia Pacific nations aspire for the region.

Willett said that the US and ASEAN nations should use the arbitration case as an opportunity to resolve the disputes through diplomatic solutions.

READ: Analyst: Manila vs Beijing ruling to affect nations with similar claims

"The case itself doesn’t actually involve questions of who has sovereignty over the land features in the South China Sea, but it will make some important decisions about the maritime space, the rights of claimants with respect to the Sea and its resources," Willett said.

The US official, however, lamented that the environmental damage caused by China's massive reclamation activities in the region cannot be undone.

Willett noted that China will face further complication with its neighbors if it chooses to ignore the upcoming ruling of the international tribunal.

READ: Phl lead counsel: China to lose influence if it defies tribunal's decision

The US State Department stressed that the US is not a claimant in the South China Sea but will continue with its freedom of navigation operations in the area despite maritime disputes between several countries.

"We certainly intend to continue to fly, operate and sail through the region in accordance to international law. We will continue to coordinate closely with our friends and security partners in the region," the US official said.

The US earlier stressed that China's attempt to restrict freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea does not have a valid reason.

Earlier this year, it has been reported that Beijing had deployed surface-to-air missiles in one of the islands in the disputed waters. It has also been reported that China has been building radar facilities on its artificial islands on the Spratly Islands.

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