MANILA, Philippines — The US State Department’s 47-page study debunking China’s “expansive” maritime claims in the South China Sea (SCS) is part of a “continuing consolidation” of international support for the decision 2016 arbitration that Manila won over Beijing in The Hague, the former head of Philippine diplomacy said on Saturday.
Alongside the US, other countries like France, Germany, the UK, Australia and the Philippines’ Asian neighbors are now invoking the decision against China’s “absurd claims”, the official said. Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario in a statement released by Stratbase ADR Institute. .
“What’s remarkable about the US State Department’s 2022 study is that it draws heavily on the ruling…made by the Philippines…against China,” he said. “We believe this is part of an ongoing consolidation of positions around the 2016 arbitration award among those who adhere to the rule of law in international relations.”
In 2013, the Philippines challenged claims to China’s nine-dash line that encompassed most of the Western Philippine Sea, the waters of the country’s 370-kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone. The international arbitral tribunal has decided to invalidate China’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea.
The Bureau of Oceans and Polar Affairs of the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said in its study “Limits in the Seas No. 150” that China’s claims were “inconsistent with international law.” as evidenced by the 1982 United Nations report. Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Specifically, the January 12 report says China’s claim to “historic rights” in the South China Sea “is manifestly inconsistent with maritime law.”
The demand “exceeds [China’s] possible maritime rights provided for by the international law of the sea,” the report states.
He pointed out that the United States and many other states had protested China’s “historic rights” claim that had been “rejected by the court in the South China Sea arbitration.”
Del Rosario said the Philippines, through the arbitral award, had had an impact by denouncing China’s “continued display of brute force”.
Focus on 4 claims
“Confronting China over its illegal claims in the SCS is an intergenerational struggle. We should elect a government that will stand firm for what is ours and for all nations to uphold the rule of law,” he said, referring to national elections in May.
The US study focused on four maritime claims asserted by China.
One is “claims of sovereignty” over more than 100 submerged features at high tide, which the State Department said were “beyond the legal limits of any state’s territorial sea.”
Another is the “straight baselines” that China had “either drawn or asserted the right to draw” to meet the geographic criteria of the convention to substantiate its claims to four “groups of islands”, namely, Dongsha, Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha (including the Spratly Islands).
The report says the normal reference method cannot be used by China to claim Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a traditional Philippine fishing ground.
He said the two main features of Zhongsha’s “cluster of islands” – Panatag Shoal and Macclesfield Bank – were “geographically isolated” from each other. They are about 289 kilometers apart, with waters between them reaching a depth of over 4,000 meters.
China uses the third base, “maritime zones” above internal waters, to justify its jurisdictional claims. The fourth, “historical rights,” does not specify the nature or geographic extent of China’s claims, according to the report.
China mourns distortion
Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim all or part of the South China Sea.
The State Department said the study is part of a series intended to “examine a coastal state’s maritime claims and/or boundaries and assess their compliance with international law.”
In response, China said the US report “distorts international law and misleads the public”.
“The United States refuses to sign the convention but poses as a judge and twists the treaty for no reason,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday. “Seeking his own selfish interests, he uses multiple standards to carry out political manipulation,” Wang said.
The Philippines and China are signatories to Unclos, unlike the United States.
Del Rosario noted that the US report showed that China’s claims “are staggering in their outright falsity”, such as asserting sovereignty over underwater features as if they were land territories.
“For example, Mischief (Panganiban) Reef is part of Philippine waters, but China claims Mischief Reef as if it were land territory – thus artificially and illegally converting the reef into one of its airbases. and naval operations in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines,” said Del Rosario.
Report says China’s sovereignty claims over maritime features do not meet definition of an “island”, are entirely beyond a legal territorial sea, are inconsistent with international law and are unrecognized by the United States and other states.
He said that despite China’s claim to historical rights to the waters, it had not provided “specific information regarding the geographical extent” to back it up.
Given that the claim itself is “defective in its vagueness”, the report pointed to an earlier study from 2014 which stated that “the law of the sea does not allow ‘the rights of other claimant coastal states’ to be nullified by the maritime claims of another State”. which are based on “story”.
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