China’s plan to develop and fortify an expansive area of the resource-rich but disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) lacks merit under international law, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.
Beijing has established a new city called Sansha under its southern Hainan province to politically administer its claimed territories in the disputed waters kin the Philippines.
In a move that could stoke tensions anew, China this week said it will invest at least $1.6 billion for the construction of a harbor, an airport, and other facilities in the areas, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
“This is giving a lot of concerns among nation states not only in the region but as far as the international community is concerned,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters.
China's recent move to bring all its claimed territories under the ambit of a recently-established "Sansha City" was “a way of reinforcing their nine-dash line claim which is considered excessive and a violation of international law,” Hernandez said.
“This action will not gain validity for China,” he said.
China’s so-called nine-dash line is a U-shaped map that covers nearly 90 percent of the waters believed to be rich in oil and natural gas.
Many have feared the conflicts could be Asia's next flashpoint.
In their latest spat, Asian neighbors Beijing and Manila engaged in a standoff in April this year when Chinese vessels sailed into a shoal called Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), which Philippine officials say is an integral part of its territory.
Vietnam likewise protested what it calls increasing Chinese aggression in the resource-rich waters after Beijing tendered bids for several gas and oil exploration areas within Hanoi’s waters.
China has frowned on bringing the territorial disputes to any international forum such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei are members along with non-claimants like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
Beijing prefers to negotiate with each of the other smaller rival claimants, giving them an advantage because of its sheer size and dominant military force. —KG, GMA News