A Chinese high-ranking official has dismissed the Philippines’ claims to the South China Sea saying previous international treaties have already delineated Manila’s boundaries in the disputed waters.
Ouyang Yujing, director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s department of boundary and ocean affairs, said the 1898, 1900, and 1930 international treaties have already established Manila’s boundaries in the South China Sea.
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The official said that based on the earlier treaties, the Spratly group of islands and Scarborough Shoal clearly belong to China.
Yujing, at a press conference on Friday, said Beijing has already studied and discussed the Philippines’ case and has decided not to participate in the court proceedings.
He said the case was ultimately about China’s sovereignty and maritime demarcation, adding that Beijing has all the right to refuse participation.
Yujing emphasized that the Philippines has denied the previous treaties and has been ‘illegally occupying’ Chinese-claimed islands.
Beijing is said to be warming up to the press more to explain its side of the South China Sea issue in anticipation of a Hague court ruling on the case in a few weeks.
The Philippines filed a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague last year against China’s claims in the South China Sea.
Tensions in the South China Sea region is expected to heighten as the ruling is widely expected to go against Beijing.
China has reiterated that it does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and will refuse to abide by the ruling of the court – despite the fact that Beijing is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China is laying claim to almost the entirety of the South China Sea, an important international waterway in which $5 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes through each year.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
China’s rapid expansion of artificial islands and its construction of outposts and airports in disputed territories in the South China Sea as well as the consequential US’ freedom of navigation operations have raised tensions.
The Group of Seven (G7) economies have warned China about its reclamation activities in the region saying any provocation must be immediately stopped.
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