Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative file image of an octagonal tower with a conical feature at its top, located on the northeast side of Subi Reef. Reuters
BEIJING – The disputed rocks and reefs of the South China Sea are more than an ocean away from the landlocked African nation of Niger.
But that has not stopped the strife-ridden, largely desert country of 17 million people adding its voice to a growing diplomatic chorus that Beijing says supports its rejection of an international tribunal hearing on the waters.
Others apparently singing from the same hymn sheet include Togo, Afghanistan and Burundi.
They are among the latest foot soldiers in “a public relations war” by China aimed at questioning international maritime rules, said Ashley Townshend, a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
The tribunal case, brought to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague by the Philippines, is highly technical and hinges on such issues as how international law defines “islands”.
Niger joined the ranks of “over 40 countries that have officially endorsed China’s position” that the issues should be settled through direct negotiations, not international courts, said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.