China rejects UK, France, Germany call to respect SCS ruling



MANILA, Philippines — China has rejected as “unwelcome” the call of the United Kingdom, France and Germany on the South China Sea claimants to respect the arbitration ruling of 2016 and the rules-based framework laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the situation in the SCS remains stable and is improving because of the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries.

“We, the regional countries, have the will, wisdom and capability to properly resolve the South China Sea issue and achieve long-term stability, development and prosperity in this region,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a press conference in Beijing on Friday.

While implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS in a comprehensive and effective manner, China and ASEAN countries have vigorously advanced and made important progress in the consultations on a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, he added.

“On the other hand, however, some non-regional countries made unwelcome remarks and deliberately highlighted tensions in disregard of the efforts by regional countries to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. China opposes that,” Geng stated.

“We urge those countries to look at the South China Sea issue objectively, stop making negative comments, and create an enabling environment for regional countries to properly handle maritime disputes and advance cooperation,” he said.

In a statement, the UK, France and Germany or E3 said they are concerned about the situation in the SCS, which could lead to insecurity and instability in the region. They called on all coastal states of the SCS “to take steps and measures that reduce tensions and contribute to maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability and safety in the region, including as regards the rights of coastal States in their waters and the freedom and rights of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.”

“As State parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom underline their interest in the universal application of the Convention which sets out the comprehensive legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas including in the South China Sea must be carried out and which provides the basis for national, regional and global co-operation in the maritime domain. They recall in this regard the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016,” their joint statement read.

In a landmark ruling on July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration found no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to a “nine-dash line” in the SCS and that Beijing had breached the sovereign rights of the Philippines, which brought the case.

The E3 welcomed the ongoing negotiations between ASEAN member states and China for a rules-based, co-operative and effective Code of Conduct consistent with UNCLOS in the South China Sea and encourage progress towards its early conclusion.

During a meeting in Beijing on Thursday, President Duterte raised to Chinese President Xi Jinping the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating Beijing’s excessive and expansive claim in the South China Sea and reaffirming the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

Duterte said the arbitral award is final, binding and not subject to appeal, but Xi reiterated his position against recognizing the ruling.

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said that accepting China’s rejection of the Philippines’ arbitral win might constitute betrayal of public trust.

“For the Philippines to have been asked to agree that it will not bring up the issue again is to effectively accept without equivocation that China is above the rule of law. This would be so wrong. It would be a betrayal of the trust we have placed in our governance,” he stressed.

The country’s former top diplomat said the public “must convince our leadership that we need to strengthen our resolve, and not have it weakened.”

But House Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte said Duterte did the right thing in raising the issue of overlapping claims in the SCS.

“Our President has been bold and forthright enough to assert the Philippines’ legal victory over China in the arbitral case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July 2016,” he said, adding that the move shows patriotism.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the two Asian leaders agreed that “the conflict issue should not be the sum total of the relationship between the two countries” and that both countries should “continue with the dialogue peacefully on that issue.”

Surigao del Norte Rep. Francisco Matugas II hopes China would respect the Philippines and that one way of doing this is by informing Filipinos what the “armed warships and survey ships were doing in Philippine territorial waters.”

Earlier, the military and the Department of National Defense raised their concerns on the incursions of the Chinese ships in Philippines waters without first informing authorities of their presence. – With Delon Porcalla