THE United States has warned China anew that an attack on Philippine armed forces in the South China Sea would trigger a 70-year-old mutual defense treaty.
“The United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea. We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday, July 11.
He made the statement, marking the fifth anniversary of the arbitral ruling in The Hague, Netherlands that invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.
In July of last year, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. stands with its Southeast Asian allies, stressing that Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are “completely unlawful.”
Blinken, in his statement, cited the arbitral ruling that rejected China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, stressing that Beijing is “legally bound to comply” with the decision.
“Five years ago, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention delivered a unanimous and enduring decision firmly rejecting the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) expansive South China Sea maritime claims as having no basis in international law,” he said.
“The Tribunal stated that the PRC has no lawful claim to the area determined by the Arbitral Tribunal to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. The PRC and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision,” he added.
Blinken pointed out that “nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea.”
“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway,” he added.
The U.S. Secretary of State also called on China to abide by its obligations under international law.
“We call on the PRC to abide by its obligations under international law, cease its provocative behavior, and take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, big and small,” said Blinken.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Blinken’s statement was “extremely irresponsible.”
“The U.S. statement disregards the historical merits and objective facts of the South China Sea issue, violates and distorts international law, and breaks the U.S. government’s long-held public commitment of not taking a position on the South China Sea sovereignty issue,” he said.
“It deliberately stokes disputes on territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, sows discord among regional countries and undermines regional peace and stability. This is extremely irresponsible. China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the wrong act by the U.S. side,” he added.
Zhao also maintained that China “firmly upholds and practices international rule of law.”
“As an original contracting party of [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], China always correctly understands and earnestly implements the Convention, and uphold its authority and integrity with concrete actions,” he added. n