China has warned the United States and other countries that they should not meddle in the South China Sea disputes, stressing the territorial row should only be resolved between Beijing and other claimants like Manila.
“China hopes countries outside the region will duly respect the efforts of China and other regional countries to properly handle maritime disputes and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
Zhao made the statement after Thursday’s phone conversation between Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and President Joe Biden’s newly appointed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who rejected China’s massive sea claim and vowed to defend Manila against aggression in the disputed waters.
The Philippines and the United States have an existing Mutual Defense Treaty that binds the US to defend its Asian ally from external aggression.
Blinken has reaffirmed America’s commitment to defend the Philippines against any armed attack in the South China Sea after China passed a law authorizing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels in the hotly contested waterways.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States should be reaffirmed to maintain a balance in the South China Sea.
Lacson, who heads the Senate’s committee on national defense and security, said Blinken spoke with Locsin.
“The US-PH Mutual Defense Treaty is one yet untapped weapon in our arsenal. I certainly hope we do not draw that weapon. Meantime, we might as well keep it there,” Lacson said on his Twitter account.
.The Philippines won its case against China at an international tribunal in The Hague, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
The landmark decision also ruled that China violated Filipino fishermen’s traditional fishing rights in Scarborough Shoal, but did not make a stand on who should have sovereignty over the area.
The arbitral ruling largely recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in other areas within its exclusive economic zone that China claims.
However, China rejects the ruling and insists that it owns most of the global waterway.
China, which considers the sea disputes a purely Asian issue, is opposed to any foreign intervention, particularly the US.
While the US is not a party to the disputes in the South China Sea, it has declared that it is in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight across the contested waterways where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.
The passage of the China’s new law allowing its coast guards to fire on foreign vessels in its claimed territories in the South China Sea is expected to stoke tensions in the region.
The law authorizes the Chinese coast guard to undertake “all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
This prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest against China, with the Locsin describing the law as a “verbal threat of war to any country.”
“While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one—given the area involved or for that matter the open South China Sea—is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law; which, if unchallenged, is submission to it,” Locsin added.