Interview: Arbitration undermines peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes: U.S. expert

Source: XinhuaEditor: Yao Jianing
2016-06-13 14:59

An aerial photo taken on Sept. 25, 2015 from a seaplane of Hainan Maritime Safety Administration shows cruise vessel Haixun 1103 heading to the Yacheng 13-1 drilling rig during a patrol in South China Sea.(Xinhua/Zhao Yingquan)

WASHINGTON, June 11 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines' unilateral move to seek arbitration over the South China Sea disputes will hurt the prospect of resolving the issue peacefully through negotiations, a U.S. expert told Xinhua in an interview.

China has wanted to resolve the issue through negotiations, but the Philippines, with U.S. backing, felt it could "play hardball" on the issue by taking the disputes to the arbitration tribunal, said William Jones, Washington Bureau Chief of U.S. publication Executive Intelligence Review.

"Arbitration normally is a case when two parties cannot successfully negotiate a problem. But that (Manila's action) is not the case at all, because there have been effectively no negotiations between the Philippines and China on this issue," Jones said.

China adheres to the position of non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration, a stance that Jones said Beijing has "legitimate reasons" to take according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In his analysis of Manila's intentions behind the arbitration, Jones said the Philippines felt that whatever decision the court would make, the arbitration process itself would give the country a certain amount of leeway in asserting its claims in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, he said, the United States could use the arbitration as a way to limit China's territorial claims and strengthen its allies, as "the growth of China, especially its maritime growth, is seen more, by at least a large section of the United States elites, as a threat."

"Both of them gain a certain advantage of that in trying to delimit the rightful claims, I think, of China in terms of its territorial demands," Jones said, adding that he believes China's historical claims to the South China Sea region "really cannot be refuted."

Moreover, the expert denounced U.S. support to the arbitration, arguing that it contradicts Washington's position not to take sides on the South China Sea issue.

The United States has "in effect taken sides" by encouraging the Philippines to assert its claims "much more forcefully, making it more difficult to get successful negotiations," he said.

"The intervention, and really the role of the United States, has become the most aggravating part (of the South China Sea issue)," Jones said.

In the interview with Xinhua, Jones also refuted the allegation that China has militarized the South China Sea region with its reclamation and building projects.

"You want to count the number of ships and the number of cruises that have been made by the U.S. and allied naval vessels in the vicinity, and I think the militarization is really all on the part of the United States," he said.

Jones added that the freedom of navigation in the region has never been threatened, "certainly not by the Chinese."

"Chinese trade is very dependent on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to get what they need to support their population. So they have no reason to threaten that," he said.

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