China asks Singapore to respect its position on South China Sea tribunal ruling

China asks Singapore to respect its position on South China Sea tribunal ruling
The alleged on-going land reclamation of China at Subi reef is seen from Pagasa island in the Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, in this May 11, 2015 file photo. Photo: REUTERS
Published: 12:50 PM, August 7, 2016
Updated: 2:28 PM, August 7, 2016

BEIJING — Beijing has called on Singapore to respect China’s position on the recent international tribunal ruling that rejected most of its claims over the South China Sea.

“As was made clear by the Chinese side, the so-called award by the Arbitral Tribunal was illegal and invalid and thus not binding at all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website on Friday.

She was responding to a media question on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s comments made during his official visit to the United States last week in which he reportedly said that Singapore hoped all countries will respect international law and the outcome of arbitration.

Ms Hua said that at a recent meeting of East Asian foreign ministers in Laos, Asean had said it took no position on the arbitration case, which was taken out by the Philippines against China.

She added that China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had also issued a joint statement on the implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“The Chinese side hopes that Singapore will respect China’s position and its consensus with ASEAN, stay objective and impartial, play its role well as the coordinator of China-ASEAN relations and work for the sound the steady growth of China-Singapore as well as China-ASEAN relations,” she added.

China has refused to recognise the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated its vast territorial claims in the South China Sea and did not take part in the proceedings.

The tribunal was held under the auspices of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Following the ruling on July 12, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry had urged “all parties to fully respect legal and diplomatic processes”.

It added that while Singapore is not claimant state in the South China Sea and does not take sides on the competing territorial claims, it supports the peaceful resolution of disputes among claimants in accordance with universally-recognised principles of international law, including UNCLOS, without resorting to the threat or use of force.

“As a small state, we strongly support the maintenance of a rules-based order that upholds and protects the rights and privileges of all states,” the ministry said in a statement.

Beijing has reacted angrily to calls by Western countries and Japan for the decision to be adhered to and has released pictures of its military aircraft flying over the shoal since the ruling.

Over the weekend, China’s air force sent bombers and fighter jets on “combat patrols” near contested islands in the South China Sea, in a move a senior colonel said was part of an effort to normalise such drills and respond to security threats.

The air force sent several H-6 bombers and Su-30 fighter jets to inspect the airspace around the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, Senior Colonel Shen Jinke of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

China has repeatedly blamed the US for stoking tension through its military patrols in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than US$5 trillion (S$6.3 trillion) of trade moves annually.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have rival claims in the South China Sea.

The United States has conducted freedom of navigation patrols close to Chinese-held islands, to Beijing’s anger, while China has been bolstering its military presence there.