Wednesday, November 11, 2015

VIDEO | China says Philippines must heal rift over South China Sea as Indonesia speaks out

From InterAksyon (Nov 12): VIDEO | China says Philippines must heal rift over South China Sea as Indonesia speaks out

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in KL. REUTERS

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Philippines' case against China at an arbitration tribunal over rival claims in the South China Sea had strained relations and that it was up to the Philippines to heal the rift.

Beijing's claim to almost the entire South China Sea is shown on Chinese maps with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the resource-rich waterway.

The arbitration case against China in the Hague "is a knot that has impeded the improvement and development of Sino-Philippine relations", a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website cited Wang as saying in Manila.

"We do not want this knot to become tighter and tighter, so that it even becomes a dead knot," Wang told reporters. "As for how to loosen or open the knot, (we'll) have to look at the Philippines."

Indonesia’s threat

The nine-dash line also includes parts of the Indonesian-held Natuna islands and Jakarta, which has kept a low profile in the dispute, could take China to the "International Criminal Court" if Beijing's claim was not resolved through dialogue, Indonesia's security chief, Luhut Panjaitan, told reporters on Wednesday.

Although he specified the International Criminal Court, which deals with war crimes, it would appear he meant an international tribunal such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

[Read related story: Indonesia says could also take China to court over South China Sea]

For years, China has insisted that disputes with rival claimants be handled bilaterally.

Arbitration case

In a legal setback for Beijing, the arbitration court ruled last month that it had jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines had filed against China.

The Philippines has welcomed the decision and its Foreign Affairs Department said on Wednesday it would pursue the case "to its logical conclusion".

The Philippines on Wednesday said it is determined to see through the conclusion of its arbitration case that seeks to invalidate China’s huge sea claim amid Wang’s accusation that Manila’s legal challenge has strained ties between the two countries.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose maintained that arbitration, "a universally-recognized dispute settlement mechanism," is “a peaceful and enduring solution” to the overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

“We are determined to pursue the arbitration case to its logical conclusion,” Jose said in a statement.
"China's nine-dash line claim is expansive, excessive and has no basis under international law," Jose said.

"If left unchallenged, we could lose about 80 percent of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone)," Jose warned.

“China's unilateral, aggressive and provocative actions to assert her claims in South China Sea affect our ability to exercise our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our maritime entitlements,” Jose said. “To address these, we have resorted to arbitration.”

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which has jurisdiction over Manila’s case, will begin its hearing on the merits of the Philippine complaint on Nov. 24 and will conclude it on Nov. 30.

China has boycotted the legal proceedings and rejects the court's authority in the case.

Manila filed the case in 2013 to seek a ruling on its right to explore, exploit and manage areas within its 200-nautical mile EEZ as allowed under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"The person who caused the problem should solve it," Wang, speaking to Manila-based Chinese journalists, said hours after his bilateral meeting with counterpart Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and a courtesy call to President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacanang on Tuesday. "We hope that the Philippines can make a more sensible choice."

Tensions flared after China beefed up its reclamation activities in disputed areas and transformed seven previously submerged features into artificial islands with buildings several stories high with at least two runways.

Several countries, including the US and Japan, have raised concerns over China’s rapid island-building.

Next week, Manila hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, an event at which the United States says the South China Sea will likely come up on the sidelines.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China hoped "sensitive political topics" would not be discussed there.

"We hope all sides can uphold the economic trade essence of the APEC forum," he told reporters in Beijing.



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