U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
AFP Photo

Beijing [China]: China on Monday protested the remarks made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reaffirming that Washington views Beijing's South China Sea (SCS) maritime claims as unlawful.

Blinken, on the fifth anniversary of an international ruling concerning SCS, had said nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea.

Addressing a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, "The US statement ignores the objective facts regarding the South China Sea issue, violates the norms of international law, goes against the public promises of the US administration to adhere to a neutral position on disputes over the South China Sea, sows discord between the countries of the region, and undermines regional peace and stability." Statements that Beijing's maritime claims in the region have no legal grounds are "absolutely untrue," the Chinese spokesperson claimed while rejecting the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Earlier, Blinken had said China continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway.

"We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," the US Secretary of State said.

Blinken further called on China to abide by its obligations under international law and cease its provocative behaviour and respects the rights of "all countries, big and small." Tensions have remained high since March between the Philippines and China after hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted in the disputed portions of the hotly contested South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Even five years after an international arbitration court ruled that the majority of China's maritime claims in the SCS had no legal basis, Beijing's behaviour has not been altered much. According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, it continues to act largely unrestrained in one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

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