China has blasted the Philippines at the United Nations for seeking support for its three-pronged approach in resolving the disputes in the contested South China South territories, which includes the promotion of legal arbitration that Beijing strongly opposes.
In an October 7 letter to the UN addressed to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, China rejected Manila’s so-called Triple Action Plan or TAP, saying it “will only further complicate and aggravate the situation” in the area, where the two Asian neighbors and other claimants quarrel over features where huge oil and natural gas and minerals have been discovered.
“The Philippine plan, if put into practice, will undermine the sanctity and efficacy of the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” said Liu Jieyi, China’s Permanent Ambassador to the UN.
The Declaration that Liu was referring to is the non-binding, non-aggression pact signed by China and Southeast Asian nations in 2002 that calls on all claimants to the South China Sea to exercise restraint and to stop new occupation or construction of disputed features.
China’s latest tirade against the Philippines indicates its continuing animosity towards Manila, which earlier sought international arbitration before a Netherlands-based tribunal to try to declare as illegal Beijing’s massive claim over the waters that extends up to Philippine territorial boundaries.
The South China Sea, home to a cluster of islands, shoals, reefs and cays is being claimed in part or in whole by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Parts of the South China Sea that is within Manila’s internationally-recognized exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been renamed West Philippine Sea to stress the Philippines’ claim over the waters, where China is also asserting ownership.
Earlier, the Philippines wrote to Secretary General Ban to seek the UN’s support for the TAP during President Aquino’s attendance to the UN General Assembly in late September.
In that letter, which was circulated to the 193 UN member states, the Philippines outlined the TAP and called on the international community to support measures for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes.
Manila’s three-way approach advocates steps which have already been rejected by China, like international arbitration.
Elevating the TAP to the UN reflects the Philippines' still-defiant stance against China and its firm resolve to garner international support for the approaches and steps it has taken to protect its territorial claims in the South China Sea and reduce threats posed by China's aggressive behavior in the contested region.
But to China, implementing the TAP will “cast a shadow over and impede the implementation of the Declaration and the consultations on a ‘code of conduct’ and impair efforts to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, promote maritime cooperation and resolve relevant disputes.”
China, Liu said, only agrees with and advocates the “dual track” approach proposed by countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to address the South China Sea issue.
The two-step plan, Liu said, promotes negotiations between concerned parties while “China and ASEAN countries work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
“Being fully consistent with the spirit enshrined in the Declaration, this approach represents the only right path to properly handling and seeking a just and durable solution to the South China Sea issue,” Liu said.
Tensions in the South China Sea – one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes - spiked anew amid China’s increasing military and paramilitary presence and construction activities in contested features. Such move was criticized by Manila and foreign governments like the United States, Japan and Australia.
China insists it has “indisputable sovereignty” over nearly the entire waters, citing historical documents and ancient maps to back its claims.