The United States, European Union (EU), and several other western countries have reaffirmed their support to the Philippines’ claim in the disputed South China Sea on the fifth anniversary of The Hague’s Arbitral Tribunal ruling.
In a statement, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said the US reaffirms its policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea it released almost a year ago on July 13, 2020, noting that the Arbitral Tribunal delivered a “unanimous and enduring decision” rejecting China’s maritime claims as having “no basis on international law.”
“The Tribunal stated that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) 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,” Blinken said.
He noted that “nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea.
“The PRC continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway,” Blinken said.
He called on China to abide by its obligations under international law, to cease “provocative behavior,” and to reassure that China is committed to rules-based maritime order “that respects the rights of all countries, big and small.”
An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, he added.
In a separate statement, Global Affairs Canada — in charge of Canada’s diplomatic relations — reiterated the need for all parties involved to comply with the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal five years ago.
“It is imperative that all parties in the region demonstrate restraint and avoid taking action unilaterally, as this would exacerbate tensions and threaten regional stability,” Global Affairs Canada said.
Canada is “particularly concerned” by China’s “escalatory and destabilizing actions in the East and South China Seas.”
These actions include the “militarization of disputed features and the use of naval, coast guard, and maritime militia vessels to intimidate and threaten the ships of other states.”
“We call on all states, including China, to live up to previous commitments made in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea,” Global Affairs Canada said.
Several western diplomats also expressed their support for the Philippines and the Hague Arbitral Tribunal ruling five years ago on Twitter.
The delegation of the EU in the Philippines said that what happens in the South China Sea “matters to the EU, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and the whole world.”
“We further reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and the right of freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS,” the EU delegation said.
Anke Reiffenstuel, German Ambassador to the Philippines, said that the Philippines “wrote history” with the Hague Arbitration Tribunal ruling.
“The rules-based maritime order laid down in UNCLOS ensures international cooperation and stability,” Reiffenstuel said.