âUS to use all tools to protect valid South China Sea claimsâ
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the strengthened US policy on South China Sea gives significant support to ASEAN leaders who have declared that the disputes must be resolved through international law, not “might makes right.”
Xinhua/Liu Rui
‘US to use all tools to protect valid South China Sea claims’
Pia Lee Brago (The Philippine Star) - July 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Saying US policy on the South China Sea is now “crystal clear,” Washington announced it will use all tools and legal responses it can provide to protect valid claims of countries across the world which recognize that China violated their legal territorial and maritime claims.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the strengthened US policy on South China Sea gives significant support to ASEAN leaders who have declared that the disputes must be resolved through international law, not “might makes right.”

“For the first time, we made our policy on the South China Sea crystal clear. It’s not China’s maritime empire. If Beijing violates the international law and free nations do nothing, then history shows that the CCP will simply take more territory,” Pompeo said in a press briefing on Wednesday, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Pompeo stated that China engaged for a long time in behavior that was radically un-reciprocal, enormously unfair to the American people, and put America’s national security at risk.

“And so we have begun to turn that around… there is still real work that needs to be done,” Pompeo said. “We have a Chinese Communist Party that is putting freedom and democracy at risk by their expansionist, imperialist, authoritarian behavior. That’s the behavior that we’re trying to see changed.”

Asked about US expectations of China following a strengthened US position on South China Sea, Pompeo said “after extensive legal review, the State Department for the first time made clear what we believe the law reflects.”

“So we will then go use the tools that we have available, and we will support countries all across the world who recognize that China has violated their legal territorial claims – or maritime claims as well, and we’ll go provide them the assistance we can, whether that’s in multilateral bodies, whether that’s in ASEAN, through legal responses. We use all the tools we can,” he emphasized.

Countries all throughout Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, he explained, recognize that the US is prepared to do the things necessary to assist them in protecting their valid legal claims.

“So I think it was really important. The statement we made on Monday, I think, was very important in not only demarcating the United States position, but making clear that we’ll support other nations of the region that do a similar thing with respect to protecting their capacity to preserve the maritime boundaries that their people are entitled to,” Pompeo said.

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

Pompeo made the statement a day after the fourth anniversary of the South China Sea ruling in favor of the Philippines.

He said China’s claims to resources across most of the South China Sea were completely “unlawful” as Washington seeks to push back Chinese activity in the region.

Pompeo also hit the Chinese Communist Party talks about win-win and cooperation.

“Cooperation isn’t about nice language or summits, or meetings between foreign ministers. It’s about actions. And that’s the expectation that we are setting for the Chinese Communist Party. We need to see fair, reciprocal responses,” he said.

After a strong Philippine statement declaring the 2016 South China Sea ruling as “non-negotiable,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed to address the dispute and concern through “friendly” consultation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Locsin met virtually with his Chinese counterpart “at the latter’s request” and engaged in open, cordial, and fruitful discussions on Tuesday.

The State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia raised the case of peaceful arbitration brought with “real courage” by the Philippines and challenged China’s expansive and excessive claims in the South China Sea.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell noted that China tried to delegitimize and ignore the verdict, despite its obligations to abide by it as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

‘Pursue foreign policy to protect fisherfolk’

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the government should pursue an independent foreign policy and reassert its ownership of Philippine territories, amid growing international consensus against China’s excessive and unlawful territorial assertions.

“Government must ensure that what is ours remains ours. The potential loss of the West Philippine Sea is tantamount to the loss of livelihood for Filipino fisherfolk who depend on these resources. Especially with the pandemic, Filipinos should have security of livelihood,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros also highlighted that such independent foreign policy should be strengthened to end any further destruction that China has caused Philippine seas, which has ballooned to over P200 billion worth of damage in reef ecosystems.

She cited a report of the Gem-Ver fishermen which had to spend about P2.1 million to repair their boat after they were rammed by a Chinese vessel last year. Cecille Suerte Felipe

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