US urges China to stop harassing vessels in South China Sea

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The United States has called on China to “cease its routine harassment” of vessels of other countries with claims in the South China Sea, reaffirming its support for a 2016 arbitration ruling, which China said on Wednesday it does not recognize.

The ruling handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague seven years ago concluded that Beijing’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea, where about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year, was groundless.

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Saying that ruling was final and legally binding on the Philippines and China, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement on Tuesday urged Beijing to “comport its maritime claims with international law.”

He also called on Beijing to “halt its disruption to states’ sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage natural resources, and end its interference with the freedoms of navigation and overflight of states lawfully operating in the region.”

But China, whose “aggressive” actions in the South China Sea have been the subject of hundreds of diplomatic protests filed by the Philippines, maintained it does not accept any claim or action based on the ruling.

“With its ruling, the tribunal violated the principle of state consent, went beyond its authority to hear the case and perverted law,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbing told a regular news conference.

To celebrate the anniversary of the arbitral award, which has received the backing of countries such as Japan, United Kingdom and Australia, the Philippines foreign ministry on Wednesday launched a website containing “official information” about Manila’s legal victory against Beijing.

“We firmly reject attempts to deliberately diminish or undermine the Award’s definitive legal effects in international law,” Philippines foreign ministry undersecretary Theresa Lazaro told a forum on the South China Sea. “Having been made final, the Award is no longer contestable and is beyond compromise.”

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