MANILA, Philippines – The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China heated up Thursday, August 1, after the two countries issued clashing statements on the US Senate’s new resolution supporting peace in the South China Sea.
In a statement on Thursday, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr thanked the chair of US Senate’s foreign relations committee, Sen Robert Menendez, “for his leadership” in passing the resolution unanimously.
“While the US has no direct stake in the dispute, it is important for the US that freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and the observance of international laws are guaranteed,” Cuisia said.
He also welcomed the US Senate’s support for the Philippines’ decision to file a case against China – a move that China, on the other hand, has rejected.
“Through the resolution, the United States Senate has demonstrated its leadership by strongly advocating for the resolution of the dispute without coercion, without intimidation, without threats, and without the use of force,” Cuisia added.
‘Sending wrong message’
China protested the resolution for “sending the wrong message.”
In a statement quoted by the state-run China Daily, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US resolution wrongly places the blame on China.
Hua said China “has lodged solemn representations to the US side.”
“We urge relevant US senators to respect the facts and correct their mistakes so as not to make matters and the regional situation more complicated,” she added.
China has denounced third-party involvement in South China Sea disputes, and has pushed for bilateral negotiations instead.
US backs arbitration
In its resolution, the US Senate said it “condemns the use of coercion, threats, or force by naval, maritime security, or fishing vessels and military or civilian aircraft in the South China Sea and the East China Sea to assert disputed maritime or territorial claims or alter the status quo.”
It also urged parties to the disputes to exercise “self-restraint,” and upheld efforts “to develop a code of conduct of parties in the South China Sea.”
The US Senate added it “supports collaborative diplomatic processes by all claimants in the South China Sea” for resolving disputes, including arbitration, which the Philippines resorted to.
READ: Hearings on PH, China dispute begin
The resolution came before the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Wednesday, July 31, that US spy planes help the Philippines in monitoring the South China Sea.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines could use the information from the spy planes for its arbitration with China.
READ: DFA: Spy planes to gather evidence vs China
China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other neighbors.
Analysts have long warned that China’s overlapping claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan could be a flashpoint of armed conflict.
Tensions have risen in recent years as China has adopted more aggressive diplomatic and military tactics to assert its claims to the potentially resource-rich waters. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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