China says Philip­pines must heal rift over South China Sea

In­done­sia says it could take Beijing to court

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIJING/MANILA: Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi said the Philip­pines’ case against China at an ar­bi­tra­tion tri­bunal over ri­val claims in the South China Sea had strained re­la­tions and that it was up to the Philip­pines to heal the rift.

Beijing’s claim to al­most the en­tire South China Sea is shown on Chi­nese maps with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the mar­itime heart of South­east Asia. Viet­nam, the Philip­pines, Tai­wan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the wa­ter­way.

The ar­bi­tra­tion case against China in the Hague “is a knot that has im­peded the im­prove­ment and de­vel­op­ment of Si­noPhilip­pine re­la­tions”, a state­ment on the For­eign Min­istry’s web­site cited Wang as say­ing in Manila.

“We do not want this knot to be­come tighter and tighter, so that it even be­comes a dead knot,” Wang told re­porters. “As for how to loosen or open the knot, (we’ll) have to look at the Philip­pines.”

The nine-dash line also in­cludes parts of the In­done­sian-held Natuna is­lands and Jakarta, which has kept a low pro­file in the dis­pute, could take China to the “In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court” if Beijing’s claim was not re­solved through di­a­logue, In­done­sia’s se­cu­rity chief, Luhut Pan­jai­tan, told re­porters on Wed­nes­day.

Al­though he spec­i­fied the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, which deals with war crimes, it would ap­pear he meant an in­ter­na­tional tri­bunal such as the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion. For years, China has in­sisted that dis­putes with ri­val claimants be han­dled bi­lat­er­ally. In a le­gal set­back for Beijing, the ar­bi­tra­tion court ruled last month that it had ju­ris­dic­tion to hear some ter­ri­to­rial claims the Philip­pines had filed against China.

The Philip­pines has wel­comed the de­ci­sion and its For­eign Af­fairs Depart­ment said yes­ter­day it would pursue the case “to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion”. “China’s nine-dash line claim is ex­pan­sive, ex­ces­sive and has no ba­sis un­der in­ter­na­tional law,” said for­eign af­fairs spokesman Charles Jose. “If left un­chal­lenged, we could lose about 80 per­cent of our EEZ (ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone).”

China has boy­cotted the le­gal pro­ceed­ings and re­jects the court’s author­ity in the case.

Manila filed the case in 2013 to seek a rul­ing on its right to ex­ploit wa­ters in its 200-nau­ti­cal mile EEZ as al­lowed un­der the UN Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea. “The per­son who caused the prob­lem should solve it,” Wang said. “We hope that the Philip­pines can make a more sen­si­ble choice.”

Next week, Manila hosts the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) sum­mit, an event at which the United States says the South China Sea will likely come up on the side­lines.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Hong Lei said China hoped “sen­si­tive po­lit­i­cal top­ics” would not be dis­cussed there. “We hope all sides can up­hold the eco­nomic trade essence of the APEC fo­rum,” he told re­porters in Beijing. —Reuters

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