Beijing’s ambassador to the United States made a blunt rebuke Tuesday of an international tribunal ruling that rendered its claims in the South China Sea invalid.
China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters, despite rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors, most notably the Philippines.
The decision by the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague “will certainly undermine or weaken the motivation of states to engage in negotiations and consultations for solving their dispute,” ambassador Cui Tiankai said.
“It will certainly intensify conflicts and even confrontation,” he added, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“In the end, it will undermine the authority and effectiveness of international law.”
The envoy also warned that the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling “will probably open the door of abusing arbitration procedures.”
China’s claims, which include waters approaching neighboring countries, are based on a vaguely defined “nine-dash-line” found on a 1940s Chinese map.
The row has embroiled the United States, which has deployed aircraft carriers and a host of other vessels to assert freedom of navigation in the waters -- through which a third of the global oil trade passes.
Criticizing the American show of force in the region, Cui warned it could lead to conflict.
“Intensified military activities so close to Chinese islands and reefs or even entering the neighboring waters of these islands and reefs, these activities certainly have the risk of leading to some conflict,” he said.
“I am quite sure they will have the effect of destabilizing regional stability,” the ambassador added.
“If armed conflict started, everybody’s interest would be hurt, including our interest and I am sure the interests of the USA.”
The envoy blamed Washington’s pivot to Asia under President Barack Obama for increased tensions.
“Tensions started to rise five to six years ago, about the same time we began to hear from the so-called pivoting to Asia,” Cui said.
“Disputes intensified, relations strained, confidence weakened.”