China’s expanded nine-dash line policy on which it based its claim to the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is artificial and contravenes international laws, United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said on Friday.
“Any use of the nine-dash line now becoming 10-dash-line based on historical argument that China is invoking to claim maritime rights is not based on land-based feature and will be inconsistent with the international laws. We believe in upholding the Declaration of Conduct and making it mandatory. Obviously, this [nine-dash line] is an artificial creation and is not a part of that [declaration],” Goldberg said during a Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) forum on the Enhanced Cooperation Defense Agreement between the US and the Philippines held in Makati City (Metro Manila).
The US ambassador was referring to the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the Law of the Seas that prevents Asean countries and China from taking provocative actions in the West Philippine Sea. The pact, inked in 2002, is non-binding.
The Philippines is still studying whether it will protest China’s publication of a new and expanded map.
China has been claiming sovereignty on West Philippine Sea islands that lie within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
The Philippines has questioned China’s nine-dash-line claim at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, but Beijing refused to participate in the arbitration process.
“Although the US takes no position +on competing claims on sovereignty over the disputed lands in the West Philippine Sea, we do take a strong position with regard to behavior of intimidation, coercion or the use of force to settle this. We take a very strong position that maritime claims +should be settled peacefully, legally, diplomatically, without force, intimidation and unilateral action. Those are principles underpinning US policies,” Goldberg pointed out.
He said a peaceful negotiation of the maritime dispute is best, citing the recent agreement reached by the Philippines and Indonesia involving their respective economic zones.
“We may have historical arguments for many things but we believe that the way forward of settling this issue are through tribunals, code of conduct, observance of declarations of conduct and negotiations. The US is for multilateral solution and having code of conduct is preferable+ route. As we have seen with the deal with the Philippines and Indonesia, it can be done,” Goldberg added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) hoped that the arbitral tribunal will hand down its decision invalidating China’s claims next year.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said such excessive claims do not comply with Unclos, which China also signed along with 164 countries.
Beijing recently published new maps that show mainland China’s national territory extending to the coasts of its neighbors the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The new maps are an iteration of China’s territories, which in old maps are placed inside a cut-out box at the bottom corner of the maps.
The Chinese Communist Party said the maps will make clear the extent of the country’s territories.
Jose said the department is studying whether it should protest the publication of the new maps.
“But it should be noted the first time China admitted its claim to the UN [United Nations] we already registered our protest so this is already documented and registered with the UN,” the official said.
Jose noted that “the map per se will not make the territories you claim yours.”
“If it were so, we might as well daw our own map,” he said.
Jose added that Unclos does not recognize historical rights, the basis of Beijing’s claims in the resource-rich region.
Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalamand Taiwan, which China considers a renegade island, also have claims to the West Philippine Sea territories.