Duterte vows to discuss South China Sea dispute at ASEAN Summit



President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday vowed to discuss China’s expansive South China Sea claims with his fellow Southeast Asian leaders at the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Thailand.

Duterte will be attending the Bangkok summit this weekend, as leaders are expected to discuss a range of regional issues including the South China Sea dispute.

“Is it correct for China to declare ownership of an ocean? I am posing this question. Can you claim a whole ocean? Because nobody can prevent America from claiming a third of the Pacific Ocean,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.

“I will talk lengthily about it dito sa ASEAN. It’s not a matter of yung nine-dash line. Simple lang. Can you claim an ocean as your own? Tell me now because I will also claim mine.”

Beijing’s far-reaching claims also overlap with the territorial boundaries of its other Asian neighbors such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in July 2016 that China had no historic rights to resources within its so-called nine-dash line, a tongue-shaped encirclement that covers a huge swath of the resource-rich South China Sea, including those that are within Philippine territory.

This ruling also declared the Philippines as the sole authority to exploit and develop resources, from fishing to oil and gas deposits, within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatory.

China responded by insisting that its sovereignty and marine rights in the vital sea lane would not be affected in any way by the ruling.

The Philippines is currently the dialogue coordinator between China and ASEAN on negotiations for a South China Sea Code of Conduct, which aims to prevent conflicting territorial claims from erupting into violent confrontations or worse, an economically-devastating major conflict. — DVM, GMA News