British Foreign Secretary William Hague rebuffed China’s strategy to bilaterally negotiate with the claimant-countries in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a press conference, the British official put his weight behind the Philippines’ approach to seek a rules-based solution to the decades-old dispute over what he called a “power-based solution.”
“We want to see a peaceful resolution of that dispute in accordance with international law,” he said.
But although the Philippines is entitled to seek “legal remedy” for their case, Hague said “we don’t take the position on the substance of the claim subject of the tribunal.”
China has been pushing other claimants to the region, which includes the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, to negotiate with them bilaterally instead of using multilateral platforms to find a solution to the dispute.
The Philippines, including some analysts, see this as China’s strategy to use its economic and political might as leverage against its smaller and less powerful neighbors.
Hague said it is up to the tribunal, which is expecting Manila’s submission of a Memorial in March, to determine the merit of the case.
” . . . and we will follow that closely with interest,” he added.
Western nations, as well as the international community, have particularly huge interests in maintaining the peace, stability and freedom of navigation and commerce in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea.
The region sits atop vast resources of gas and minerals, and is home to some $5 billion worth of trade annually.
Hague, however, highlighted that there is a “need” to see China “succeed, continue to grow and play a responsible and active role in international affairs.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) “can contribute in advancing international security, including to its important effort to regularize conduct in the South China Sea.”
The Philippines is a member of Asean, along with Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darrusalam.
“I urge all parties to this dispute to seek all cooperative solution in accordance with international law. The UK, although not a claimant, has an interest as all nations do, in peaceful and rules-based resolution,” Hague said. AFP