With new South China Sea policy, US now a defender of Philippines' arbitral award — analyst
In this July 6, 2020 photo, the US Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Mustin (DDG 89), center, and USS Antietam (CG 54), right, sail together.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Tarleton

With new South China Sea policy, US now a defender of Philippines' arbitral award — analyst

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 15, 2020 - 11:34am

MANILA, Philippines — Following its new position in the South China Sea maritime disputes, the United States has made itself a defender of the July 2016 arbitral ruling that sided with the Philippines, an analyst said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier released a statement to mark the fourth anniversary of the landmark ruling that invalidated Beijing's nine-dash line claim in the disputed sea. His statement explicitly sided with Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines.

Julio Amador III, fellow at Manila-based think tank Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress, noted that the US explicitly cited the arbitral ruling despite being a non-state-party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"It unequivocally expresses support for the maritime claims of the ASEAN claimants, all of which (Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and even Indonesia) are explicitly mentioned," Amador said in an online exchange with Philstar.com.

With Washington's latest policy declaration in the South China Sea, the Philippines could capitalize on the diplomatic support of its ASEAN neighbors and the US, along with its allies, he added.

"The US now also cares about the coastal states' maritime entitlements, not just the user states' navigational rights, in the South China Sea," Amador said.

This latest development also suggests that the arbitral award would continue to live on even if the present or future Philippine administrations would not actively enforce it.

'Strong message to China'

Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the statement of US Secretary of Mike Pompeo that most of Beijing's claims in the South China Sea are "completely unlawful" sends a "very strong" message to China.

"This sends a very strong message to China that the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei have the backing of the US in protecting their exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea," Carpio said in a virtual conference Tuesday.

Citing the UNCLOS, Carpio stressed that all states have the freedom of navigation and overflight in the EEZs and the high seas of the world.

According to Carpio, freedom of navigation and overflight operations are the "most robust and most powerful enforcement" of the arbitral ruling.

"If China persists in its aggressive encroachment of the EEZs of the ASEAN coastal states, then ASEAN coastal states can respond by joining the outside naval powers in their freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the exclusive economic zones and high seas of the South China Sea," Carpio said.

'Carefully crafted'

Gregory Poling, director of Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, described the latest US position on the South China Sea as a "big deal."

"It's carefully crafted to avoid overstepping the 2016 arbitral award and maintains American neutrality on sovereignty," Poling said.

According to Poling, this latest move from Washington would be the first step in a long-term campaign in supporting its partners and highlighting Chinese illegal behavior in the South China Sea.

In the context of the Philippines' arbitral award, Pompeo pointed out that China has no lawful maritime claim over areas the tribunal ruled to be in Philippine EEZ or continental shelf, Beijing's harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development is unlawful and China does not have a legal claim to Mischief Reef of Second Thomas Shoal.

US Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell reiterated Pompeo's statement that China "has no right to bully Southeast Asian states for their offshore resources."

Stilwell echoed the remarks of Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that the arbitral ruling represents a victory not just for the Philippines but also for law-abiding nations.

The US official noted that China continued to dismiss the arbitral ruling as "nothing more than a piece of paper."

"For our part, the United States is resolved to protect our vital interests and those of our allies and friends. We are building our military capabilities. We are vigilant. We are exercising and operating wherever international law allows," Stilwell said in a statement.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 27, 2020 - 9:37am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

August 27, 2020 - 9:37am

China said a US spy plane entered a no-fly zone used by the Chinese military for live-fire drills, branding it an act of provocation, state media said Tuesday.

The U-2 reconnaissance jet's flight over an area in northern China violated safety rules between the two nations, Xinhua reported, citing Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian.

"The US action could easily have resulted in misjudgments and even accidents," said the report, adding "that the move was an obvious provocation." — AFP

July 14, 2020 - 7:34am

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States would treat Beijing's pursuit of resources in the dispute-rife South China Sea as illegal, ramping up pressure on another front.

"We are making clear: Beijing's claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them," Pompeo says in a statement.

The United States has long rejected Beijing's sweeping claims in the South ChinaSea, aligning itself with Vietnam, the Philippines and other US partners in the region. — AFP

July 3, 2020 - 7:28am

The Pentagon says it is "concerned" about Chinese military exercises around a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, noting the maneuvers will "further destabilize" the region.

"The Department of Defense is concerned about the People's Republic of China (PRC) decision to conduct military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on July 1-5," the Pentagon says in a statement.

The activities "further destabilize the situation" in the area claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, it says. — AFP

April 30, 2020 - 4:15pm

The Philippines says it strongly protests "the establishment of the so-called districts of 'Nansha' and 'Xisha' under the supposed administrative jurisdiction of its self-declared 'Sansha City'" which would cover parts of the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs says it has protested since 2012 the "unlawful establishment of Sansha City" that includes Philippine territory and maritime zones in the WPS, including the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc.

The Philippines also protests the dseignation of Kagitingan Reef in the Kalayaan Island Group "as adinistrative center for the so-called 'Nansha district'," saying the reef is part of the KIG and an integral part of Philippine territory.

April 27, 2020 - 1:41pm

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution to urge the executive branch to "exert legal and diplomatic pressure" on China over its activities in the West Philippine and to have the regional giant pay for enviromental damage in the area.

"China's sense of entitlement to our seas has caused severe and irreparable harm to our ecosystems," Hontiveros says in a statement on the filing of Philippine Senate Resolution No. 369.

Even if the Senate, the majority of which supports the Duterte administration and its foreign policy with China, adopts the resolution, it is non-binding on the executive branch.

"Hindi tayo kolonya, kaya panahon nang singilin ng gobyerno ang Tsina (We are not a colony so it's about time that we have China pay)," she also says.

In her resolution, Hontiveros says "unlawful Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea are estimated to have caused at last P33 billion in damage annually to marine ecosystems within the Philippines' continental shelf and exclusive economic zone" since 2013, the year that the Philippines filed its arbitration case.

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