A day after UN-backed tribunal shunned China’s claims over the South China Sea, the defiant country has warned the world against making the South China a region of war.
“Do not make it a region of war,” Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin warned at a televised press conference.
China has also asserted that it has the right to declare a unilateral air-defence zone over the strategically placed water stretch.
“We have set up one (air defence zone) over the East China Sea (close to Japan) and whether we will set up another in South China Sea will depend on the degree of threat we are facing. If threatened enough, we will do so but it will depend on a host of factors,” Liu added.
China has refused to abide by the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) tribunal in The Hague. It has said Philippines’ claim over parts of the South China Sea is groundless from the perspectives of either history or international law.
On Tuesday, the arbitral court concluded that “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights” within the sea areas falling within China’s ‘nine-dash line’.
“We do not recognise or implement the award. We hope it is only a white paper and it will not be enforced. Just dump it into garbage or put it in a shelf or put it in archives and let us come back to the track of negotiations,” Liu said.
“The Chinese navy can operate in South China Sea at any time as the area belongs to China.”
However, he also added that China hopes to go back to the negotiating table with the Philippines.
China also slammed the five- member international jury and called the verdict a “manipulated” judgement.
China alleged Japanese jurist Shunji Yanai who had appointed four of the five judges who came out with the verdict.
Liu said Yanai worked as Tokyo’s diplomat in the US and was close to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Can we really trust this tribunal to be fair and to be credible? Some people of a country are saying that the award has a binding force and should be enforced,” he said in an apparent reference to US assertions that the ruling is binding and China should implement it.
Meanwhile Taiwan set sail a Taiwanese warship for the South China Sea today “to defend Taiwan’s maritime territory”.
India on the other hand, reacted to the verdict and called for a way to resolve the dispute through peaceful means without threat or use of force.
“India supports freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
(With inputs from agencies)