US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo (Xinhua photo)

MANILA – The United States government on Monday came out with a strong position, dismissing as “completely unlawful” China’s claims on resources across most of the South China Sea (SCS).

“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its ‘Nine-Dashed Line’ claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009,” State Secretary Michael Pompeo said in a statement dated July 13.

Pompeo underscored that Washington recognizes the 2016 Arbitral Ruling as “final and legally binding” on both parties even though Beijing, a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), rejected the decision.

Pursued by the Philippines within the framework of the UNCLOS, the 2016 award ruled that China’s sprawling maritime and territorial claims within its so-called nine-dash line are illegal.

Citing this, Pompeo said the PRC cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim, including exclusive economic zone (EEZ), claims from Scarborough Reef, the Spratly Islands, and other areas in Philippine waters the Tribunal acknowledged as within its EEZ or continental shelf.

He added that Beijing’s “harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas is unlawful.”

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said. “We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

‘Non-negotiable’

On the ruling’s fourth anniversary last Sunday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the decision is “non-negotiable” and that China should comply, pointing out that compliance is an obligation to the international law, including UNCLOS.

“The Philippines, as a law-abiding, peace-loving, and responsible member of the international community, reaffirms on this occasion its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change. The award is non-negotiable,” Locsin said.

He noted that the award is “a milestone in the corpus of international law, the cornerstone of a rules-based regional and international order.”

“The arbitral tribunal’s award of 12 July 2016 represents a victory, not just for the Philippines, but for the entire community of consistently law-abiding nations,” Locsin said. (PNA)