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US reaffirms support to PH in pushing back against ‘unlawful’ South China Sea claims

December 15, 2021 - Wednesday 5:12 PM by GDM

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The United States has reaffirmed its commitment to “push back” against “unlawful” maritime South China Sea claims as it seeks to build a “stronger” relationship with the Philippines and the rest of their allies in Southeast Asia. 
In a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the world superpower will work with their allies and partners to defend the “rules-based order” built together over decades to ensure the Indo-Pacific region remains open and accessible.
“And let me be clear about one thing: the goal of defending the rules-based order is not to keep any country down.  Rather, it’s to protect the right of all countries to choose their own path, free from coercion, free from intimidation,” Bliken stressed. 
“It’s not about a contest between a US-centric region or a China-centric region.  The Indo-Pacific is its own region.  Rather, it’s about upholding the rights and agreements that are responsible for the most peaceful and prosperous period that this region and the world has ever experienced,” he added.
According to the official, there’s so much concern about China’s “aggressive” actions from northeast Asia to southeast Asia, and from the Mekong River to the Pacific Islands such as claiming open seas as their own, distorting open markets through subsidies to its state-run companies, denying the exports or revoking deals for countries whose “policies it does not agree with, engaging in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities.  Countries across the region want this behavior to change.”
“We do, too, and that’s why we’re determined to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s aggressive actions there threaten the movement of more than $3 trillion worth of commerce every year,” said Blinken.
According to estimates, more than $3 trillion worth of trade passes through the disputed South China Sea every year.
“When commerce can’t traverse open seas, that means that farmers are blocked from shipping their produce; factories can’t ship their microchips; hospitals are blocked from getting lifesaving medicines,” said Blinken.
The Secretary of State also emphasized that the Permanent Court of Arbitration based on the The Hague in Netherlands already rejected Beijing’s sweeping claim at the South China Sea and rejected its nine-dash line claim, noting that it is bereft of any historical or factual bases. 
“Five years ago, an international tribunal delivered a unanimous and legally binding decision firmly rejecting unlawful, expansive South China Sea maritime claims as being inconsistent with international law.  We and other countries, including South China Sea claimants, will continue to push back on such behavior. It’s also why we have an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, consistent with our longstanding commitments,” said Bliken.
“[W]e will forge stronger connections within and beyond the region.  We’ll deepen our treaty alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.  Those bonds have long provided the foundation for peace, security, and prosperity in the region,” he committed.
He also said that the US will foster greater cooperation among these allies and will find ways to knit allies together with partners. “And we’ll strengthen our partnership with a strong and independent ASEAN.”
“ASEAN centrality means we will keep working with and through ASEAN to deepen our engagement with the region all the more, given the alignment between our vision and ASEAN’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” he said.


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