Philippines minister dares China to put maritime sovereignty claim to arbitration


MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines defence minister on Monday dared China to take its claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea to international arbitration following another standoff at the weekend, but said Manila would not budge on its position.

The Philippines accused China’s coastguard of using water cannon against a civilian boat supplying troops stationed on a grounded warship at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, damaging the resupply boat and injuring some crew, the latest in a succession of flare-ups in the past year.

“If China is not afraid to state its claims to the world, then why don’t we arbitrate under international law?,” Philippine Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told reporters.

China’s coastguard said it took necessary measures against the Philippine vessels. China’s defence ministry on Sunday told the Philippines to cease “provocative actions” and comments that may lead to conflict and an escalation.

The Philippines’ national security adviser convened a high-level meeting of top security officials on Monday over the incident, to prepare recommendations to put to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on ways forward in the dispute.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its own, including the Second Thomas Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ 200-mile (320-km) exclusive economic zone.

Beijing has deployed hundreds of coastguard vessel throughout the South China Sea to patrol what it considers its territory, despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration making clear in 2016 that its vast claim had no basis under international law.

“They are the ones who entered our territory,” Philippine Defence Secretary Teodoro said.

“No country believes (their claims) and they see this as their way to use force, intimidate and bend the Philippines to their ambitions.”

(Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)



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