China warns of ‘decisive response’ over SCS provocations

China warns of ‘decisive response’ over SCS provocations

Beijing (PTI): China today warned of “decisive response” if any provocative action is taken in the South China Sea to enforce an international tribunal’s verdict against Beijing’s expansive claims in the strategic region.

“I want to stress that if any one wants to take any provocative action against China’s security interest based on the award China will take a decisive response,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters.

Responding to questions on the impact of the verdict given by a tribunal appointed by The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), he said it was “unlawful” as it was established at the unlawful request of the previous Philippine government.

The award issued by it will not have any effect on China’s existing policy, he said. China has reacted furiously to the tribunal’s verdict on Tuesday which said that Beijing has no grounds for its claims in the strategic region, through which USD 3 trillion passes in trade annually.

It has said that it will not abide by the decision and yesterday warned that any insistence to enfore the verdict could turn the resource-rich area into a “region of war”.

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea rivals those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Lu said China has lodged a formal protest with Australia over the comments of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who has stated that Canberra would keep exercising its international rights to freedom of navigation and overflight and support others to do the same in light of the tribunal’s verdict.

Asking Australia to join the “majority of the international community” in not recognising “illegal outcome” of the verdict, he said China respected freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with the international law.

Answering another question, Lu said China and the Philippines are in contact to discuss future course of action between the two after the verdict.

The new Philippine government headed by President Rodrigo Duterte is positive about resuming talks with China. “We welcome that and the door is open for that,” he said, adding that the two countries are already in contact with each other through diplomatic channels.

The Philippines, which had launched the legal challenge in 2013, called for China to respect the tribunal’s decision.

The US and Australia were among Manila’s allies to call on China to respect the decision, saying it was legally binding, and increasing the international pressure on Beijing which says it has “historic rights” over the disputed region as it was the first to have discovered and named the area.

Asked about the US statement that, like China, Washington has interests in the Asia-Pacific and will there be more competition between the two countries in the South China Sea, Lu said Beijing has never denied the legitimate interests of the US in the region.

“We hope the US will play a positive role for peace and stability of the region. I also want to point out that the interest of the US is not the sole interest in the region.

“China and other countries in the region have our immediate interests. If any outsider wants to safeguard their interests they should not obstruct efforts by regional countries to protect their interests,” he said.

Criticising the US’ Asia pivot and rebalance strategies, he said despite differences the countries in the region can manage their efforts and maintain peace in the region and ensure the region becomes an engine of stable economic growth. “It serves the interests of all parties in the region,” he said.

Asked whether Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei will also opt for international arbitration following Tuesday’s verdict, Lu said for a long time countries in the region have been striving to manage their differences and stay committed to growth.

“Under the current circumstances ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries came up with that dual track approach which is that South China Sea disputes should be resolved by countries concerned through bilateral negotiations and consultations and China and ASEAN countries will work together for peace and stability of the south china sea. Peace and stability of the region is shared aspiration of China and other countries,” he said.

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