Free Press Journal

Stop playing with fire in South China Sea, Chinese diplomat tells Philippines


London: Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming has urged Philippines to return to a negotiated solution and some countries from outside the region to “stop playing with fire” regarding the South China Sea. He made the remarks in a signed article “a serious international situation is developing in the South China Sea region.” published by the Daily Telegraph on Friday, reports the Xinhua.

In the op-ed, Liu noted that now there was much discussion about whether Beijing should accept the ruling of the South China Sea arbitration process. “It is important to understand that this arbitration process was in fact started by the Philippines unilaterally as an attempt to legitimise their illegal occupation of the Nansha islands and reefs,” the Chinese ambassador wrote.

Liu pointed out to the fact that more than 40 of China’s islands and reefs in Nansha are illegally occupied by the Philippines and some other countries, who have built airstrips and deployed weapons there. “The Philippines in particular has kept provoking disputes over islands and reefs time and again by, for example, ‘grounding’ a warship forcibly and illegally on China’s reef to lay its claim,” he said in the article.

He noted that China have called for disputes to be shelved and for joint development pending the ultimate solution of the issue. However, it appeared that the Philippines see China’s self-restraint as being weak and therefore has gone one step further, Liu said. “It not only wants Chinese islands and reefs but has also filed for arbitration to drape its illegal occupation in the cloak of law,” he explained.

He pointed out that territorial sovereignty is not within the scope of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Beijing made a clear declaration in 2006 in accordance with UNCLOS to exclude maritime delimitation from compulsory arbitration. More than thirty other countries have made similar declarations.

The ambassador pointed out that the tribunal’s imprudent decision to start the compulsory arbitration process “suggests a lack of even minimal respect for the spirit and principles of the UNCLOS to say the least.”

The article read questioned, “Would anybody go into a football match where the rival team has conspired with the referee?”. The answer is ‘NO’. The diplomat said the parties directly involved in the South China Sea should consult and negotiate face to face, drawing on historical facts and international law.

“This is the only way we will resolve the South China Sea issue, restore harmony, and bring about lasting peace, cooperation and prosperity to this region,” the article concluded.