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Who’s stirring up trouble now?

Refusing to submit to international conventions contradicts China’s claim that it respects UNCLOS, which it had signed.

Read more: https://tribune.net.ph/2023/11/whos-stirring-up-trouble-now/

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China’s People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, suddenly went on high alert amid the launch of the US and Philippines joint patrol in the West Philippine Sea, or WPS.

In taking the action, China said the Philippines has enlisted “foreign forces” to patrol the seas, escalating tensions.

A Chinese military spokesperson said the Philippines’ move sabotaged regional peace and stability, and “violated the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties, or DoC,” on the South China Sea.

The DoC is a non-binding agreement that should have paved the way for a substantive Code of Conduct, or CoC, that would be enforceable among its signatories.

China said its military will maintain high vigilance, “resolutely defend sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

China has an expansive claim on the regional waters based on supposed historic rights encompassing the disputed sea.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, established rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources, thus clearly defining entitlements to maritime resources.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, or PCA, issued an award invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim that, in effect, provided the basis for the current actions in the regional seas.

The Philippines claims the waters 200 nautical miles from its shores as its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea. The WPS and the SCS overlap.

China said the presence of the PLA in the area where the joint patrols have started “deterred potential provocations and displayed China’s capabilities in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and maritime interests.”

In China’s recounting, the PLA frigate Yuncheng was conducting a routine patrol “since Tuesday” when “the Philippines rallied forces from outside the region and conducted a patrol in the South China Sea, stirred up tensions and troubles and hyped the event.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ version of the high alert movements was that the joint maritime patrol of the Philippines and the United States was shadowed.

China is tapping its so-called experts to paint the impression that the Philippines pulled in United States forces to interfere “and sabotage peace and stability in the region.”

China has been enticing the Philippines to negotiate the territorial dispute in a bilateral dialogue that will entail disregarding the 2016 arbitral ruling that did not go in its favor.

“The more the Philippines provokes, the heavier it will end up landing,” went a Chinese warning.

China should stop bullying the Philippines into submitting to whatever it wants, which is how it wants the dispute to be resolved in disregard of international conventions.

The previous administration tried the path China has been pushing, but that did not amount to long-term benefits. For a while, the militia vessels and the Chinese Coast Guard laid off Filipino fishermen trying to earn their living in the country’s exclusive zone.

Chinese vessels had never left the disputed zone since 2012 when the standoff at Scarborough Shoal happened.

Refusing to submit to international conventions contradicts China’s claim that it respects UNCLOS, which it had signed.

China can show good faith by removing all the obstacles to the signing of the CoC, which has been languishing in endless discussions because of Beijing’s demand that the pact bar vessels from outside the region in the disputed seas and its historical claim to the SCS is adhered to.

The CoC will also serve as a non-aggression pact binding the signatories.

The challenge for China is to exercise leadership in the region instead of provoking disputes due to its unreasonable impositions.

It should treat smaller nations fairly if it seeks respect from its neighbors.

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