Washington/Beijing: – The United States rejected the Chinese claims regarding the South China Sea in clear and emphatic words- The United States is a staunch supporter of free and open Indo-Pacific region and the Chinese claims on the South China Sea, which is a part of this region, are completely illegal. China has reacted very sharply to the US stand. China has accused that the US stand on the South China Sea will destroy the peace and stability of the region and is unnecessarily inciting the Chinese relations with the countries in this region. But the ASEAN countries themselves have challenged the Chinese statement, and the Philippines has demanded that China should abide by the verdict of the international arbitrator regarding the South China Sea given in 2016. With this statement issued by the Philippines, indications are that China, who is pointing the finger at the United States, may itself get cornered in the South China Sea issue.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement clarifying the US stand on the South China Sea. US Secretary of State openly challenged the Chinese bullying saying all the claims made by the Chinese government regarding the South China Sea are false, and the United States opposes all the Chinese efforts to take control over this region. According to him, the United States is a supporter of freedom of marine freight movement and open trade. If there is an attempt to resolve any of the disputes in the South China Sea using coercion or military force, the United States will oppose it will all its might. Clear indications were given that the United States was standing firm with the countries confronting China in the South China Sea.
In 2009, China had created a sensation claiming rights over nearly 90% of the South China Sea, saying that the ‘Nine-Dash Line’ was the border for the Chinese marine region. The South-East Asian countries Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, along with Taiwan, challenged this unilateral announcement made by China. Out of these countries, the Philippines filed a petition with the international arbitrator citing a law made in 1982. The international arbitrator, through its verdict, announced that China has no rights whatsoever over the South China Sea. The statement clearly and firmly says that the decision of the international arbitrator is final for the United States. The US Secretary of State sternly warned that Chinese bullying with the principle ‘Might is right’, in the South China Sea region, will not be tolerated.
China has reacted strongly to the clear stand adopted by the United States and the subsequent warning. The United States should abide by their promise not to interfere in any of the regional sovereignty disputes. The countries in the South China Sea are trying to maintain peace and stability in the region, and the United States should respect that. China strongly opposes the stand presented by the US State Department through its statement. China accused that there are unnecessary allegations levelled against China in the report, which can incite discord between China and the other countries in the region. The Chinese embassy in the United States issued this statement which also criticises the increased US defence deployment and patrolling in the South China Sea.
While the dispute is flaring up between China and the United States, Philippines also has jumped into the fray. Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. issued a statement in this matter. The Philippines warned that they are bound by the verdict passed by the international arbitrator in 2016 regarding the South China Sea, and there is no question of a deviation or compromise in this matter. The judgment clearly states who has a rightful claim over the South China Sea. Therefore, accordingly, China also should abide by the decision. Till date, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had taken a stand in favour of China. But the statement passed on Monday shows that the Philippines government has taken a U-turn in the matter and have decided to confront China.
Following the Philippines, even Japan gave indications of adopting an open stand in disputes with China. On Tuesday, the Japanese defence department released a whitepaper regarding the Japanese stand against the increasing Chinese activities. This mentions the Coronavirus pandemic and accuses that China is making moves to expeditiously enhance its interests and achieve its ambitions against the background of the pandemic. The whitepaper states that the Japanese stand is being clarified as these moves are detrimental to Japanese security.
Japan has openly expressed displeasure that China is consistently attempting intrusion in the Senkaku Islands region, which is under Japanese control. China is trying to change the situation in this region. China has not taken cognisance of the open Japanese opposition. The Japanese defence department also mentioned the Chinese activities in the South China Sea along with the East China Sea. China is trying to change the status quo in the region based on its military might, and this is a major security concern. The front opened by the United States, Philippines and Japan in the disputes against China can further corner the Chinese government.