- The United States has warned China against “additional provocations” once the arbitration court ruling is handed out
- A Pentagon official said such action would not be in China’s best interests
- The US State Department official also expressed skepticism over China’s claim that it has the support of about 40 nations
The United States has warned China against “additional provocative actions” once the international court in The Hague, Netherlands ruled on the maritime dispute filed by the Philippines questioning Beijing’s claim of “absolute sovereignty” over territories in the West Philippine Sea/ South China Sea.
The warning came ahead of an impending court decision that is widely expected to favor the Philippines; one of the nation-claimants which strongly oppose China’s aggressive moves in the region.
Deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia Colin Willet told Reuters that Washington “had a lot of options” to respond to any moves China might take even after the court ruling, including rallying its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to find a united stand.
“We, the United States, do have very clear national interests in the area,” said Willet.
The Pentagon official also assured US will stand by its commitment to defend the freedom of navigation and overflight on what is generally regarded as part of international waters, as well as to defend its allies and partners.
“We have an interest in upholding our defense commitments and our security partnerships,” she asserted.
Without preempting the arbitration court ruling in The Hague, Willet maintains that it would not be in the best interest of China “to take additional provocative actions” after the verdict is handed.
The State Department official added China must abide by the ruling, but declined to go into details how the US will respond if the communist giant did otherwise.
However, Willet insisted: “I do think it’s an important inflexion point, not just for the United States, but for the whole region.”
Willet also doubted China’s claim that it has the support of about 40 nations around the world in regards to its position in the South China Sea dispute, especially that it was not even clear what these countries allegedly agreed to.
“There’s some skepticism about that grouping,” she told Reuters.
Last week, Asean members issued a collective statement expressing ‘deep concerns’ on China’s increasing aggression in disputed territories, only to withdraw it hours later.
The abrupt retraction of anti-China statement, security experts have said, could mean that Beijing’s diplomatic pressure is at work and could eventually sow disunity among Asean nations.