Pompeo, Locsin discuss recent change in US policy on South China Sea maritime claims

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United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. have conducted a phone conversation, the US State Department said August 6.

“Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Locsin discussed the recent change in US policy on maritime claims in the South China Sea,” the US State Department said.

They also discussed US’ support for Southeast Asian coastal states upholding their sovereign rights and interests consistent with international law, and opportunities for further US-Philippine maritime cooperation.

“The two secretaries also discussed the strong economic, security, and people-to-people ties that bind our two countries,” it added.

On July 13 the US State Department released the statement on “US Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea.”

In the statement, Pompeo said “The PRC has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009. In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims.”

“The PRC cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf. Beijing’s harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas is unlawful, as are any unilateral PRC actions to exploit those resources. In line with the Tribunal’s legally binding decision, the PRC has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal, both of which fall fully under the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction, nor does Beijing have any territorial or maritime claims generated from these features,” he added.