PHL hits China over refusal to bring sea dispute to UN

BEIJING (MindaNews/14 July) – China may have a weak stand over its claim in the islands of West Philippine Sea or South China Sea following its refusal to bring the issue to the United Nations’ (UN) tribunal to settle the disputes, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said.

“China’s hesitation to accept the Philippine suggestion to elevate their dispute to International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea could lead to conclusion that China may not be able to validate their stated positions in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Del Rosario said in a statement.

At least six countries – which include Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam – have overlapping claims on the string of islands in the South China Sea that are believed to be rich in natural gas.

In his recent visit here, Del Rosario proposed to his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, the possibility of bringing the territorial conflict to the international arena, and not just through direct bilateral talks.

Del Rosario emphasized the need to respect the international law amid the tension in the West Philippine Sea.

“The rule of law is the bedrock of peace, order and fairness in modern societies. The rise of a rules-based international system has been the great equalizer in global affairs. Respect and adherence to international law have preserved peace and resolved conflicts. International law has given equal voice to nations regardless of political, economic or military stature, banishing the unlawful use of sheer force,” he said

But during a press briefing here on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Beijing has clear stand on how to resolve the issue by having a direct negotiation to the conflicting country.

“China’s position on the South China Sea is clear and consistent. China always upholds that the South China Sea dispute should be resolved in accordance with universally-recognized international law through direct negotiation between directly concerned parties,” he said.

Earlier, the Philippines and China has reaffirmed their commitments to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN member countries in 2002

In a joint statement, the two sides even agreed “not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.”

During the recent visit of Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chinese government reminded other nations not to interfere on the issue, citing the presence of American naval warships near the disputed waters.

Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, has said that the ongoing maritime exercise between the Philippines and US Navy is inappropriately timed.

Think-tank organizations here have earlier called to all parties concerned to solve the issue through dialogues.

Ron Ying, vice-president of the China Institute for International Studies, said “cooler heads” must prevail over the brewing tension in the South China Sea. (Darwin Wally T. Wee / MindaNews)