China’s claims in SCS inconsistent with int’l law: US

Two US state department officials reiterated their opposition to Beijing’s actions in the maritime space at an interaction to highlight a recent official report disproving the legal basis of China’s claims in waterway
Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) (L) sails with US Navy Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) in the South China Sea on April 18, 2020. (REUTERS/FILE)
Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) (L) sails with US Navy Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) in the South China Sea on April 18, 2020. (REUTERS/FILE)
Published on Jan 25, 2022 07:45 PM IST
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ByPrashant Jha| Washington

The US on Monday reiterated its rejection of China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea as “inconsistent with international law” and called on Beijing to cease its “unlawful and coercive activities” in the region.

Two US state department officials reiterated their opposition to Beijing’s actions in the maritime space at an interaction to highlight a recent official report disproving the legal basis of China’s claims in South China Sea. It is the 150th report in the Limits of Seas series prepared by the department, and is a follow-up of an earlier 2014 report that had examined and rejected China’s claims in the South China Sea.

The disputed waterway is one of many areas of tension between the United States and China, which claims a large swathe of the waters and has built military bases on artificial islands there.

The South China Sea, crossed by vital shipping lanes and also containing gas fields and rich fishing grounds, is also claimed by Taiwan, while Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim parts of it.

Jung Pak, the deputy assistant secretary of state for multilateral affairs in the bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that China’s claims gravely undermine the rule of law in the ocean.

Claiming that in recent years, China had “stepped up its coercive activities in the South China Sea by increasing its deployment of maritime militias…to harass and intimidate other claimant states”, she said, “These actions represent a systemic and calculated effort to interfere with the rights and freedoms, including the navigational rights and freedoms, that all countries enjoy under international law.”

Additionally, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Oceans, Fisheries, and Polar Affairs in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Scientific Affairs Constance C Arvis said that China had offered “no coherent legal basis” for its claims.

She reiterated the US call to China to “conform its maritime claims to international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, to comply with the July 12, 2016 decision of the arbitral tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration, and to cease its unlawful and coercive activities in the South China Sea”. The 2016 decision refers to an international arbitration ruling in a dispute between Philippines and China, which the latter has not accepted.

Arvis said that the new report provided a deeper analytical basis to uphold the existing US position on the issue, and provides further basis to allies and partners to push back on Chinese claims. “We definitely are not accepting a fait accompli,” she said.

Pak added that the report highlighted the US commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, and said that as long as there were “unlawful infringements of maritime rights and freedoms”, the US would continue to uphold those rights and support allies and partners.

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