China did not budge on its claims of ownership over a vast tranche of the South China Sea as a key annual meeting with the US ended with no movement on the issue, a top Beijing diplomat said yesterday.
During a two-day conference in the Chinese capital, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to settle its territorial rows peacefully and based on the “rule of law.”
But Beijing’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi said the United States should butt out of disputes a long way from its shores, including an international arbitration case brought by the Philippines.
China’s stance on the case is “in line with international law,” Yang said, insisting that Beijing’s position “has not and will not change.”
The case, he said, should be settled directly between the parties involved and called on Washington to “honor its promise of not taking a position in territorial disputes.”
The South China Sea has “been China’s territory since ancient times” and China “has every right to uphold its territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime entitlements,” Yang said.
China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea despite competing claims by several Southeast Asian neighbors, and has rapidly built artificial islands suitable for military use.
Washington has responded by sending warships close to Chinese-claimed reefs, angering Beijing.
The sour ending to the annual Strategic and Economic Dialog came despite efforts by both sides to smooth out differences that divide the world’s top two economies.
Speaking to reporters, the two sides seemed to talk past each other on the thorny question of how to settle a conflict in the region kicked off by the Chinese construction.
Both called for peaceful settlement of the issue and pledged to support freedom of navigation through the region’s air and waters, but their remarks suggested very different visions for achieving those goals.
The US will continue its “fundamental support for negotiations and a peaceful resolution based on the rule of law”, Kerry said.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the South China Sea, which encompasses vital global shipping routes and is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits.
The Philippines accused China of taking effective control of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and has brought a case against Beijing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. China has shunned the proceedings and says it will not recognize any ruling.
The meeting was also clouded by US concerns about an unfavorable business climate, steel overcapacity, and a constricted environment for foreign non-governmental organizations.
RP abused int’l law
A Chinese scholar added in a forum in Berlin that the Philippines’ assertion concerning the South China Sea (SCS) abused the international law and the United States’ interference is only a show of hegemony that does no good to anybody.
The seminar, themed “The South China Sea Issue: China’s Stance, International Voice”, gathered several Chinese overseas scholars in Germany, The Netherlands and other European countries.
It was also attended by more than 50 representatives of Chinese students studying in Berlin, Chinese enterprises and overseas Chinese living in Germany.
Noting the SCS case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in 2013, Qiu Rungen, visiting scholar at Berlin’s Humboldt University and an expert on international economic law, said that such an arbitration, though deliberately wrapped up, actually violates the legislative purpose of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS) and its juridical logic.
In fact, China and the Philippines have agreed in bilaterally-signed documents to settle sea disputes through dialogs and negotiations. Additionally, China made a declaration in 2006 that excluded a compulsory arbitration under Article 298 of the UNCLoS.
Qiu said that China’s assertion of neither accepting nor participating in the SCS arbitration is not only fully in line with the UNCLoS but also meets the basic legal principle of international laws.
It’s evident that the Philippines has abused the legal procedure to initiate the unilateral arbitration and the international tribunal’s jurisdiction over the case was marred with nomological bias, said Luo Gang, a doctoral student specialized in international law in Germany.
The SCS international arbitration tribunal in The Hague announced its jurisdiction over the case in October 2015, and prepares to deliver a ruling in the next few months. China, however, questioned the combination of the tribunal and its judging process.
The US intervention in the SCS was also discussed by the Chinese scholars.
The United States has made a series of harsh rhetoric on the SCS issue, mostly accusing China of threatening the freedom of navigation, while it itself exercised several military operations by closely flying or sailing past South China Sea islands, violating China’s sovereign rights and adding tension to the region, China said.
The arbitration case shows that the United States can not tolerate the rise of China and has fancied China’s development a challenge to the America-dominated international order, Humboldt University Law doctoral student Li Ke pointed out.
US words and deeds expose once again that the American hegemony is accustomed to use so-called “rules” to pursue power politics, Li added.