• Melo Acuna

US Secretary of State Pompeo says Beijing claims on South China Sea unlawful

U. S. strengthens its policy in the Indo-Pacific region

MANILA – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country is committed to a free and open Ind0-Pacific region. In a statement released at 8:34 A.M. Tuesday, he said they are strengthening its policy in what he described as “vital, contentious part of that region, the South China Sea.”

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” he added.

The US Secretary of State said this government seeks to preserve peace and stability and uphold the freedom of the seas consisted with international law and maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce and oppose attempts to use coercion or force to settle disputes. He added they are united with their allies who have recognized rules-based international order.

Mr. Pompeo said the South China Sea have come under “unprecedented threat” from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as “Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea and replace international law with ‘might makes right.’”

He recalled then China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi told his ASEAN counterparts of China’s being a big country and “other countries are small countries and that it is just a fact.”

Secretary Pompeo said China’s “predatory world view” has no place in the 21st century.

He cited China’s failure to present coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” since its formal announcement in 2009. Je coted the unanimous decision last July 12,2016 where an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention where PRC is a state part, rejected China’s maritime claims “as having no basis in international law.” He explained the Tribunal sided with the Philippines on almost all claims.

In his statement, Secretary Pompeo said China cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEX) claims from the Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands as the Tribunal found them to be within the Philippines’ EEZ or in its continental shelf. He referred to China’s harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas “is unlawful, as are any unilateral PRC actions to exploit those resources.” China, he said, has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal which are under th Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

The United States, he said rejects any PRC claim to waters beyond the 12-nautical mile territorial sea from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands (without prejudice to other states’ sovereignty claims over such islands. He added the United States rejects any claim from China in the waters off Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei’s exclusive economic zone and Natuna Besar in Indonesia. Incidents of harassment from fishing or hydrocarbon development or to carry such activities unilaterally, “is unlawful.”

He underscored China has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to James Shoal, en entirely submerged feature 50 miles from Malaysia and some 1,000 nautical miles from China’s coast. China, according to Secretary Pompeo, has often claimed it as the country’s southernmost territory.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” he explained. He said they are with the international community in defense of freedom of navigation and respect for sovereignty.

He concluded by saying they will reject any attempt to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region. (Melo M. Acuña)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (US State Department Photo)

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