Sat, 15 Aug 2020

Beijing [China], July 14 (ANI): Beijing on Tuesday asked the US to not stir up divisions between China and its South-East Asian neighbours in the South China Sea.

The statement came after the US called Chinese claims to the resource-rich region of the disputed South China Sea as illegitimate.

A Chinese embassy spokesperson in the US said that the statement by the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in support of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which rejects most of China's claims, was intended to 'sow discord between China and other involved countries' in the region, South China Morning Post reported.

"We advise the US side to earnestly honour its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty, respect regional countries' efforts for a peaceful and stable South China Sea and stop its attempts to disrupt and sabotage regional peace and stability," the spokesperson said.

In a shift of stance in policy, Washington, which has no claims in the region, said that it opposes a swathe of Chinese claims to the waters within the so-called "nine-dash line". This delimitation engulfs nearly 85 per cent of the South China Sea, an area with claims from at least four other neighbouring countries.

The Barack Obama administration had welcomed the ruling but did not officially endorse it. The ruling favoured the Philippines and said that China's nine-dash line and accompanying claims as "historic rights" was extremely arbitrary as the demarcation was not valid under international law.

While Beijing has said it is working closely with the 10 members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) over a code of conduct that aims to regulate behaviour in the waters, there have been growing uncertainties, particularly as negotiations have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, China's neighbours are hardening their respective positions on the matter. In a statement issued by Vietnam on behalf of ASEAN last month, a 1982 UN oceans treaty was called to be the basis of sovereign rights and entitlements in the South China Sea. It was one of the bloc's strongest remarks opposing China's vast claim on merely 'historical grounds'. (ANI)

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