Philippine Daily Inquirer
Japan on Friday said the international community should remain firm in its support to an arbitration ruling in favour of the Philippines to stop China’s incursions into other countries’ waters in the South China Sea.
Masato Ohtaka, deputy press secretary of the Japanese government, said countries around the world should continue to push for the implementation of the ruling, including parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and those who follow and respect it.
“The international community will have to stay firm on this, any weakness can be another message to the other side,” Ohtaka told reporters in an interview at a hotel in Manila.
China has rejected the ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, insisting it has “undisputed sovereignty” over the South China Sea, but Ohtaka said “the international community needs to stick to its position, no matter how long it takes.”
Ohtaka said the Philippines, Vietnam and other claimants needed to find a peaceful solution to the disputes in the South China Sea but without pressure from the international community, “I don’t think anything [will] happen.”
He said Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida, who met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City on Thursday, had given assurance that Japan would stand united with the Philippines in the search for a peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with the rule of law.
Ohtaka also said Japan remained committed to the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in dealing with China for a peaceful settlement of the disputes.
Asean remains divided on the South China Sea disputes. Four members of the bloc—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam—are claimants to parts of South China Sea, while two others—Cambodia and Laos—are allies of China and oppose China-bashing at meetings of the grouping.
The bloc makes decisions by consensus and a veto by even just one member leads to failures, such as the failure to issue a joint statement after a ministerial meeting in Cambodia in 2012 and the watering down of a joint communiqué on China’s artificial island building in the Spratly Islands in Laos last month.
Ohtaka said, however, that “[n]obody is giving up on Asean yet, a lot of things will be discussed and we will continue to focus on Asean.”
Asean, according to Ohtaka, is now a union and a force to reckon with.
“Its integrity and centrality is something Japan wishes to support as well,” he said.
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