MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) wants China to clarify a recent statement issued by its foreign minister assuring the freedom and safety of navigation in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
In a statement, the DFA said the government has a “guarded optimism” over the promise made by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton amid the tense situation in the disputed islands.
For one, freedom of navigation is a right, it said. “No State can arrogate unto itself the unilateral right to determine or assure the existence or non-existence of the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea. Rather the freedom of navigation is an established right that commands respect from everybody as a matter of international obligation.”
The DFA said that if Yang meant China will abide by international laws, then the statement should be welcomed.
It is a serious concern, however, if the comment was made as an affirmation of China’s 9-dash line claim over the entire West Philippine Sea, DFA said. This means that China would want to make it appear it is the sole guarantor of freedom of navigation, it added.
DFA said the 9-dash line remains an “excessive claim in violation of international law.”
It also asked: “What if China refuses or withdraws such assurance, does that mean that the freedom of navigation does not exist in the West Philippine Sea?”