MANILA – China will be the “loser” if it does not recognize an international court ruling against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Tuesday.
“We are trying to make China understand especially when the dust settles that unless they respect and recognize the arbitral tribunal, they will be the losers at the end of that day on this matter,” Yasay told a congressional hearing.
An arbitration court in The Hague infuriated China in July when it ruled that China had no historical title over the South China Sea and it had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights with various actions there.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that he expects talks with China on the South China Sea dispute within a year, adding that he would not raise an international ruling rejecting China’s claims there when he attends a regional summit next month.
Raising the issue at a summit in Laos of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, together with China, the United States and Japan, would compound China’s anger.
Speaking to reporters at the presidential palace in Manila, Duterte said it was “better to continually engage China in a diplomatic dialogue rather than anger officials there.”
Asked about a date for bilateral talks, he said: “Within the year.”
The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines that has been concerned about China’s pursuit of territory in the South China Sea, said it welcomed efforts by rival claimants to manage and resolve differences peacefully.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims to parts of the sea.
Duterte said the Philippines had no intention of raising the arbitration ruling during the summit, although he added: “If somebody dwells on it, we will discuss, but for the Philippines, we have talks.”
If formal negotiations with China were to fall through, “where do we go?” he asked.
Former Philippine leader Fidel Ramos traveled to Hong Kong this month in an effort to rekindle damaged ties with Beijing.
While there, Ramos said the Philippines wanted talks with China to explore a path to peace and cooperation.
Duterte said his government wanted to talk to China so Philippine fishermen could return to the disputed Scarborough Shoal fishing ground.
In 2012, China seized the shoal, denying Philippine fishermen access and prompting Manila to file the arbitration case.
China has ignored the court’s ruling that none of its claims in the Spratly Islands entitled it to a 320-km exclusive economic zone. Its construction work on reefs there has alarmed other claimants, as well the United States and Japan.
China says its aims are peaceful and it has the right to do what it wants on its territory.
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