THE Philippines should elevate its case to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) if China will not abide by the upcoming ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), an analyst said Tuesday.
Ernest Bower, senior advisor to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said China is flexing its muscles in dividing members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to prevent the regional bloc from taking a united action against its activities in disputed waters.
“Beijing believes it could divide Asean on the South China Sea disputes,” said Bower who was the guest speaker at the South China Sea disputes forum hosted by the University of the Philippines-Diliman’s College of Law.
He said countries claiming parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam should take the case together against China.
Bower said the Philippines also has the option to take the case to the UNSC for resolution to pacify tensions in the territory.
He cited Resolution 530 issued by the UNSC on May 19, 1983, that resolved the Nicaragua-Honduras border issue. The resolution expressed deep concern at the situation on the Honduras-Nicaragua border disputes and averted a possible military confrontation.
Also, Bower said the US needs to take a non-traditional approach in dealing with issues in the West Philippine Sea.
He noted that the US cannot assert itself on the sea row when it has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
“The US is facing a big country disease, similar to that of China where it does not want to commit its sovereignty to be covered by a Convention [Unclos]. It’s a disease where a country thinks it’s big enough to live within its borders,” Bower said.
In a separate interview during a forum at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Christopher Roberts, director of executive education at the University of New South Wales, said the international community should put more pressure on China to respect whatever will be the ruling of the international tribunal on the complaint filed by the Philippines against Beijing.
He acknowledged, though, that it will take a lot of efforts to compel China to behave.
“Diplomacy should be the first course. But the problem is, how many decades of diplomacy have been there now? And it seems that diplomacy has been literally exploited and taken advantage of by Beijing,” he said.
Roberts said China has a “distorted view” about the actions of the Philippines and the international community to supposedly settle the dispute.
“The difficult thing with China is that they have made such a distorted view about all these processes, including a very peaceful process of going to Permanent Court of Arbitration,” he said.
But Beijing said it will not budge on its claims of ownership over a vast tranche of the South China Sea.
During a two-day confab in the Chinese capital, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to settle its territorial rows peacefully and based on the “rule of law.”
But Beijing’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi said the United States should butt out of disputes a long way from its shores, including an international arbitration case brought by the Philippines.
China’s stance on the case is “in line with international law,” Yang said, insisting that Beijing’s position “has not and will not change.”
The case, he said, should be settled directly between the parties involved and called on Washington to “honor its promise of not taking a position in territorial disputes.”
The South China Sea has “been China’s territory since ancient times” and China “has every right to uphold its territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime entitlements,” Yang said.
China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea despite competing claims by several Southeast Asian neighbors, and has rapidly built artificial islands suitable for military use.
Washington has responded by sending warships close to Chinese-claimed reefs, angering Beijing.
The sour ending to the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue came despite efforts by both sides to smooth out differences that divide the world’s top two economies.
Speaking to reporters, the two sides seemed to talk past each other on the thorny question of how to settle a conflict in the region kicked off by the Chinese construction.
Both called for peaceful settlement of the issue and pledged to support freedom of navigation through the region’s air and waters, but their remarks suggested very different visions for achieving those goals.
The US will continue its “fundamental support for negotiations and a peaceful resolution based on the rule of law”, Kerry said.