The Philippines has strengthened its ties with both Japan and Australia in connection to the country’s 2016 arbitral win over the West Philippine Sea.
In a summit teleconference with President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the latter “expressed his opposition to the continued and strengthened unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.”
A statement by the Japanese embassy also noted Suga’s concerns over “recent developments” in China, among which was the Coast Guard Law.
Under this legislation, China can “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
The law also allows its coast guard to “demolish” structures erected by other countries on reefs claimed by China as well as to board and inspect vessels in waters they deem to be under their jurisdiction.
The Embassy added that both Southeast Asian nations would cooperate to keep peace and stability under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Meanwhile, Australian ambassador Steven Robinson declared that all nations must observe international law on international waterways.
“We are strong supporters of the arbitral award,” he said. “And of course, we hold with the Philippines’ position as outlined at the UN.”
Because much of Australia’s international trade travels through the South China Sea, Robinson said: “It’s really important to us that there will be unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation.”
He added: “There have been rules and norms and laws that have been put in place after many years subscribed to by basically all countries in the world that support a rules-based approach to the law of the sea…governing how we all use those critical waterways, not just in the South China Sea but all international waterways.”
Five years ago, the Philippines won the arbitral award asserting its sovereignty in its exclusive economic zone, junking Beijing’s claims to much of the South China Sea.