China on Wednesday harshly criticized the Philippines’ case against it at an arbitration tribunal over rival claims in the South China Sea, calling the process a “political provocation.”
A day after a court in the Netherlands began hearing the case, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeatedly said the Philippine’s action is “unilateral” and it is not an effort to “resolve a dispute, but is an attempt to negate China’s territorial sovereignty, and maritime rights and interests.”
“It is a political provocation under the cloak of (international) law,” Hong told a regular press briefing, when asked about the start of the hearing by China’s state-run broadcaster CCTV.
He insisted that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has no jurisdiction over the case, and that China will not accept any solutions presented by a “third party.”
The Philippines, the most vocal critic of China’s way of dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea, filed the case in 2013 in a bid to invalidate China’s “nine-dash line” claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, a key international shipping lane thought to hold large gas and oil deposits.
The court, which is constituted under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, decided in October that it does have jurisdiction over the case.
The court hearing will run behind closed doors through next Monday, with representatives of Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam being allowed to observe.
The Philippines’ legal action comes as China’s continuation with its massive, rapid land reclamation activities in the disputed waters have come under fire from many regional countries.
The action has been backed by countries including the United States and Japan, which regard it as a step toward solving a dispute peacefully through international law.
Despite Hong’s assertion that the Philippines’ case is problematic and will “lead to nothing,” the Chinese activities in the South China Sea, including the construction of a runway long enough to accommodate military aircraft, have been criticized as “unilateral.”
That was also the case when leaders from the Asia-Pacific region, including the United States’ President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, gathered for their annual meetings over the weekend, this time in Kuala Lumpur.
Many leaders raised concerns over the activities and urged China not to raise tensions in the sea, part of which is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, according to diplomats who were hearing their debate.
Without directly naming China, the East Asia Summit’s chairman’s statement, released Tuesday, two days after the summit ended, said that the “recent and ongoing developments” in the South China Sea “have resulted in the erosion of trust and confidence among parties, and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”
Source: Kyodo Image: WN.com