The United States, Japan and Australia on Monday urged all claimant countries in the South China Sea to cease land reclamation’s, constructions and other “coercive unilateral actions’’ that changed the disputed area’s landscape.
US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Kono and Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, also stressed the need to protect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.
“The ministers voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions,’’ they said in a joint statement on the sidelines of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meetings in Manila.
They urged South China Sea claimants “to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarisation of disputed features and undertaking unilateral actions that caused permanent physical change to the marine environment in areas pending delimitation,’’ the statement said.
The three countries also called on China to abide by a 2016 international tribunal ruling that invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line, which demarcates its claims to almost the entire South China Sea, saying the decision was “final and legally binding.’’
Manila filed the case in January 2013 after China took control of Scarborough Shoal, 124 nautical miles from the Philippines’ north-western coast.
The tribunal ruled that the Spratlys the main territory under dispute in the sea were not islands, rather reefs, and “cannot generate maritime zones,’’ or extend China’s territorial claims as maintained by Beijing. (NAN)