China says Philippines damaged relations over sea dispute

April 02, 2014 - 7:48:13 am

MANILA: China warned yesterday that the Philippines has “seriously damaged” bilateral ties by asking the United Nations to rule in their favour in a maritime dispute.

Manila at the weekend asked a UN tribunal to declare Beijing’s claims over most of the strategically significant South China Sea illegal, submitting nearly 4,000 pages of evidence to back its case.

It argues that the Chinese stance contravenes the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and interferes with the Philippines’ sovereign rights to its continental shelf.

“What the Philippine side did seriously damaged bilateral relations with China,” Charge d’affaires Sun Xiangyang of the Chinese embassy in Manila said in a statement.

“We find it very hard to understand these moves of the Philippines and we are deeply disturbed by and concerned with the consequence of such moves.”

Both countries are signatories to UNCLOS, but Beijing argues that its provisions do not apply to the row.

The embassy statement urged the Philippines to “correct its mistake and come back to the right track of resolving the disputes through bilateral negotiations”.

China -- which is vastly more powerful than any of the several countries it has disputes with in the strategically significant waters -- prefers to negotiate with them individually, rather than in international forums.

Apart from China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea.

Sun’s comments followed a commentary in People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, denouncing Manila’s move.

“The act of the Philippine side is against the international law and the historical truth as well as against morality and basic rules of international relations,” it said.

Manila had “provoked China” by going to “so-called international arbitration, a move that is both illegal and unreasonable” and “an act lacking credibility”, it said.

“The Philippines attempted to solicit international sympathy through disguising itself as a small and weak country,” the commentary said.

Manila was attempting “to legalise its invasion of Chinese islands through the arbitration”, it added.

The invective from China’s state-run media comes as the United States and Japan have rallied to the Philippines’ defence.

Tokyo -- which is also embroiled in a bitter territorial row with Beijing -- issued a statement hailing Manila’s move, which it said was aimed at “peaceful settlement of disputes on the basis of international law”. AFP