US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the assurance on Tuesday as Washington reiterated its support for the 2016 The Hague ruling in favor of the Philippines.

He said the US reaffirms its July 13, 2020, policy regarding maritime claims in the SCS. Then US secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Washington will not allow Beijing to turn the SCS as its “maritime empire.”

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled in favor of the Philippines as it declared the so-called China’s “nine-dashed line” national boundary has no legal basis to claim historic rights to almost all resources in the SCS.

“Six years ago, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention delivered a unanimous decision, which is final and binding on the Philippines and the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” Blinken said.

In a statement, he noted that in its ruling, the Tribunal “firmly rejected the PRC’s expansive South China Sea maritime claims as having no basis in international law.”

The Tribunal also stated that the PRC has no lawful claim to the areas determined by the Arbitral Tribunal to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

“We call again on the PRC to abide by its obligations under international law and cease its provocative behavior,” Blinken said.

“We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article 4 of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” Blinken stressed. — Bernadette E. Tamayo