The South China Sea, Southeast Asia’s Patrimony, and Everybody’s Own Backyard
Link to full remarks as prepared here.
- “The United States rejects any PRC maritime claim in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), Natuna Besar (off Indonesia), or in the waters of Brunei’s EEZ. Any PRC action to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development — or to unilaterally carry out such activities on its own – is unlawful. Period.”
- “South China Sea resources are the birthright of Southeast Asian nations, the lifeblood of their coastal communities, and the livelihood of millions of their citizens. They are the inheritance of each nation’s children and grandchildren.”
- In recent months, Beijing has sunk Vietnamese fishing vessels, sent an armed flotilla to harass Malaysian offshore energy exploration, and wielded maritime militia to surround Philippine outposts. Beijing has further militarized its artificial islands in the Spratlys with new aircraft deployments. It has announced unilateral fishing bans. It has conducted destabilizing military exercises in contested waters around disputed features. And it increasingly uses its artificial islands as bases for harassment operations – to curtail access of Southeast Asian coastal states to offshore oil, gas and fisheries.
- Nearly $4 trillion in trade transits the South China Sea each year. More than $1 trillion of that is linked to the U.S. market. The sea is home to an estimated $2.6 trillion in recoverable offshore oil and gas. It also has some of the world’s richest fishing grounds that employ an estimated 3.7 million people in coastal Southeast Asian states.
- This week [July 13] marks the anniversary of a historic statement on international law in the South China Sea: the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling. This case of peaceful arbitration was brought – with real courage – by the Philippines. And the verdict was unanimous: Beijing’s Nine-Dash line maritime claim has no basis in international law. The tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines on the bulk of its legal claims. Beijing has since tried to delegitimize and ignore the verdict, despite its obligations to abide by it as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- We welcome the clear insistence last month by Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that South China Sea disputes should be resolved on the basis of international law, including UNCLOS. The wider world is also speaking up and taking action, in recognition that Beijing’s actions pose the greatest threat to freedom of the seas anywhere on the planet. South China Sea issues have direct bearing on the future of the Arctic, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and other vital waterways. What is at stake in the South China Sea has a direct impact on every nation and person who relies on freedom of the seas and the free movement of maritime commerce to ensure their nation’s prosperity.