The European Union and the United States issued separate warnings against China over its intention to ignore the court’s ruling on Manila’s arbitration case, and installing missile batteries on Paracel Islands that angered Vietnam.
Klaus Botzet, head of the political section of the EU Delegation at the seminar at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a collective support from the US, EU and other allied nations to The Hague arbitration court decision, should send Bejing a strong message they can’t ignore.
“If we unanimously support that international law as formulated by the international tribunal in the Hague needs to be upheld, that’s a very strong message and will be very difficult to ignore,” Botzet said in a Reuters report.
“A joint Western, a joint world opinion, matters also for Beijing,” he added.
The EU official added that China’s policy of rapid militarization of its occupied-but-contested territories in South China Sea is going against its own interest as it tends to force its neighbors to unite against one common enemy that is China.
“It’s investing much more in its military relative to its economic growth; [and] positions its neighbors otherwise wouldn’t take and the return on investment on this policy is negative,” Botzet explained.
The US, for its part, reiterated that it will keep supporting the Philippines in its arbitration case against China and would call not only on EU, but on other regional powerhouses like Australia, Japan and South Korea to be ready in making it clear that the international court’s ruling is binding.
“We need to be ready to be very loud and vocal, in harmony together, standing behind the Philippines and the rest of the ASEAN claimants to say that this is international law, this is incredibly important, it is binding on all parties,” Amy Searight, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia told delegates at the seminar.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration and pointed out during a daily press conference that Manila’s scheme will never succeed.
But Searight said China will be held “accountable” if it chooses to look the other way and ignore the ruling, and warns that they can come up with ‘creative ways’ to impose the punishment if ‘reputational cost’ is at stake.
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