After call between Locsin, U.S. official, China seeks ‘respect’ for efforts to resolve South China Sea dispute

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 30) — The Chinese government has asserted anew its sweeping claims to the South China Sea, which the new U.S. administration rejected during a conversation with the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr.

In a phone conversation this week, newly installed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Locsin that America continues to oppose China’s maritime claims, saying these go beyond what is permitted in international law, and promised to “stand with Southeast Asian claimants in the face of PRC (People's Republic of China) pressure.”

READ: PH, U.S. reaffirm alliance in call between Locsin, Secretary of State

The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Saturday shared its spokesperson’s response to Blinken’s remarks.

“China hopes countries outside the region will duly respect the efforts of China and other regional countries to properly handle maritime disputes and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said, echoing an earlier statement from its foreign ministry.

It said Beijing "unswervingly upholds" its territorial sovereignty, rights, and interests in the South China Sea, and remains committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiation — but only with the countries “directly concerned." It said it will continue to join efforts to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Locsin responded in a tweet, saying China's remarks were a "fair request" and "a way to resolve the dispute" and "move forward."

"China, US and Philippines need to [do] that—move forward—with respect to each other and at the same time in relation to the other," said the country's top diplomat.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and self-governing Taiwan have their own territorial claims in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway for trade that is also believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

China insists on owning almost the entire South China Sea despite a 2016 ruling of a tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and backed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The landmark decision invalidated China’s "nine-dash line" claim and recognized Manila’s sovereign rights in areas in the West Philippine Sea which Beijing contests.

China rejects the arbitral ruling while President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to set it aside to pursue areas of cooperation, including joint oil and gas exploration in disputed areas.

The Philippines is country coordinator for negotiations between the ASEAN and China for a Code of Conduct which will determine the only allowable actions that parties can take in the South China Sea.