The Jakarta Post
The Philippines on Wednesday said US patrols in the South China Sea were necessary to check China's 'illegal, unilateral and expansive' claims in the heavily disputed waterway.
'The Philippines reiterates its previous position that the [United States'] freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea are fully consistent with Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the rule of law, of which the Philippines has been a staunch advocate,' Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said in a statement.
The Unclos is basically a guide for the behavior of countries in the world's oceans covering all marine activities and providing the definition of maritime zones; the establishment of boundaries; the assignment of duties and responsibilities of nations; as well as a machinery for the settlement of sea disputes.
It particularly provides that coastal states exercise sovereignty over their territorial sea of up to 370 kilometers and foreign vessels may be allowed passage for the purpose of peaceful navigation.
'There is a collective need to protect and uphold international law in the South China Sea in response to illegal, unilateral and expansive behavior that undermine security, not only in our region, but potentially for the whole world as well,' Jose said.
'Failure to challenge false claims of sovereignty would undermine this order and lead China to the false conclusion that its claims are accepted as a fait accompli,' he said.
Jose was referring to the US Navy's sending a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, within 21 kilometers (12 nautical miles) of Zamora Reef (Subi Reef) and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) in the Spratly archipelago on Tuesday, challenging China's extensive claims in the South China Sea.
The United States said such freedom of navigation missions to the South China Sea would become frequent.
China has built artificial islands on the two reefs, both of which are in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within Manila' 370-km exclusive economic zone.
Besides the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts or all of the South China Sea.
Taiwan, on behalf of China, claims all of the Spratly archipelago.
'Sea of peace, cooperation'
In a statement issued Wednesday, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated China's claim over the Spratlys and said it was ready to engage in a dialogue with concerned parties to transform the South China Sea into a 'sea of peace and cooperation.'
China stressed its territorial claim over the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, Shisha (Paracel) Islands, Chungsha (Macclesfield Bank) Islands and Tungsha (Pratas) Islands, as well as their surrounding waters.
'As the ROC (Republic of China) enjoys all rights to these islands and their surrounding waters in accordance with international law, the ROC government does not recognize any claim to sovereignty over, or occupation of, these areas by other countries, irrespective of the reasons put forward or methods used for such claim or occupation,' the foreign ministry said.
'The ROC government calls upon all concerned parties to take account of President Ma Ying-jeou's South China Sea peace initiative and adopt conduct contributing to regional peace, stability and balance; respect the principles and spirit of relevant international law, including the Charter of the [United Nations] and the Unclos; jointly uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight through the South China Sea; refrain from escalating tensions; and resolve disputes peacefully,' it said.
'The ROC is fully prepared to engage in dialogue with other parties concerned on a basis of equality and reciprocity to transform the South China Sea into a sea of peace and cooperation,' it said. (kes)
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