China nominates candidate for international sea tribunal judge
US State Secretary Michael Pompeo announced the important step to strengthen US policy and to stand firmly with their Southeast Asian partners in defense of sovereign rights.
AFP/File
China nominates candidate for international sea tribunal judge
(The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The US urged countries to block the election of China’s candidate for a judge’s position in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) as Washington warned that electing a Chinese official to this body is like hiring an “arsonist” and will hinder international maritime law.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell said the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is running an “uncontested” candidate for a judge’s position on this tribunal at an election currently slated for late August or early September.

“Like the arbitral tribunal that ruled against Beijing in 2016, the International Tribunal is established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Electing a PRC official to this body is like hiring an arsonist to help run the fire department,” Stilwell said during the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) virtual forum.

“We urge all countries involved in the upcoming International Tribunal election to carefully assess the credentials of the PRC candidate and consider whether a PRC judge on the tribunal will help or hinder international maritime law. Given Beijing’s record, the answer should be clear,” he said.

The US has strengthened its own approach to the South China Sea.

Washington would no longer tolerate China’s actions to build a “maritime empire” in the South China Sea as it condemned as unlawful Beijing’s bullying and intimidation to control resources in the disputed waters.

US State Secretary Michael Pompeo announced the important step to strengthen US policy and to stand firmly with their Southeast Asian partners in defense of sovereign rights.

In recent months, while the world has focused on the fight against COVID-19, Stilwell said China has doubled down on its campaign to impose an order of “might makes right” in the South China Sea.

China is working to undermine the sovereign rights of other coastal states and deny them access to offshore resources – resources that belong to those states, not to China. Beijing wants dominion for itself and it wants to replace international law with rule by threats and coercion.

He said Beijing has sunk Vietnamese fishing vessels, sent an armed flotilla to harass Malaysian offshore energy exploration and wielded maritime militia to surround Philippine outposts.

“Beijing’s behavior is an assault on the people of Southeast Asia today, and from generation to generation,” Stilwell said.

He raised the case of peaceful arbitration brought with “real courage” by the Philippines to challenge China’s expansive and excessive claims in the South China Sea.

Stilwell noted that China tried to delegitimize and ignore the verdict, despite its obligations to abide by it as a party to the UNCLOS.

“Beijing likes to present itself as a champion of multilateralism and international institutions, but it has dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a piece of paper,” Stilwell said.

“Only the gullible or the co-opted can still credit Beijing’s pretense of good global citizenship,” he stressed.

On the Code of Conduct talks, Stilwell said there are clear red flags about China’s intentions as it pushed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to accept limits on core matters of national interest.

These include limits on who among the ASEAN states could partner with Beijing for military exercises and offshore oil and gas work.

Beijing is also pressuring ASEAN nations to cut ties with “outside” states and to dilute references to international law. These are demands of a bully, not a friendly neighbor, the US official said.

He said Beijing may have backed off from its arbitrary 2021 deadline for concluding the talks, but its hegemonic goals remain.

Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADR Insititute for Strategic and International Studies, said the 2016 South China Sea ruling in favor of the Philippines needs to be “internationalized” and raised in the United Nations General Assembly in September.

“We want to bring that idea from our chairperson Secretary Albert del Rosario. We need to internationalize the issue because there is international constituency on this. The narrative of our government has always been we are a small country, what can we do?” Manhit said in an interview on “The Chiefs” on Tuesday night on Cignal TV’s One News.

Manhit also welcomed the surprise “strong” statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Sunday that the unanimous award in favor of Manila is “non-negotiable” and there is no possibility of “compromise” or “change.”

“We hope this becomes the consistent policy of government,” he said.

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed eight out of ten Filipinos believe that the South China Sea issues should be brought to the UN General Assembly.

The survey also showed nine out of ten Filipinos believe that it is important to strengthen the military capability of the Philippines, especially its navy.

Malacañang may not have expected the US statement on the South China Sea, breaking neutrality on the South China Sea.

“We all know that Malacañang for the past four years has argued that not only the US but the Philippines seems to be orphaned on this issue which is not new. At the time that we filed this case we have never been orphaned until we won the victory. It is actually our own government that has orphaned us in this case,” Manhit said.

The Philippines’ neighbors Vietnam and Malaysia have stood up on the South China Sea issue while Japan and South Korea have been making a stronger stand beyond the US-China issue.

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