MANILA - The US Senate has unanimously approved Senate Resolution 167, which calls for a peaceful resolution of maritime and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
Senate Resolution 167, filed on Monday by Senators Robert Menendez (Democrat, New Jersey), Marco Antonio Rubio (Republican, Florida), and Ben Cardin (Democrat, Maryland), also urges countries contesting ownership of parts of the West Philippine Sea and East China Sea to create and approve a code of conduct to avoid conflicts.
“The territorial disputes at play in the Asia-Pacific region today are not about the past, but very much about the future of a region poised to serve as an epicenter for global economic development for the twenty first century,” Menendez said in a statement.
“With a long history of engagement in the region, the United States has a vital interest in working with all nations in developing, institutionalizing, and sustaining a rules-based order for the area. That starts with putting in place effective mechanisms to manage maritime disputes that destabilize the region, and supporting and encouraging the peaceful resolution of disputes in the Asia-Pacific maritime domain.”
Menendez chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, while Rubio is being touted as a possible Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.
The resolution cited many dangerous incidents involving Chinese actions in the West Philippine Sea and the East China Sea.
These include Chinese vessels cutting the seismic survey cables of a Vietnamese oil exploration ship in May 2011; Chinese vessels barricading the entrance to the Scarborough Reef lagoon in April 2012; China issuing an official map that defines its contested "9-dash line'' as China's national border; and, since May 8, 2013, Chinese naval and marine surveillance ships maintaining a regular presence in waters around the Second Thomas Shoal, located approximately 105 nautical miles northwest of Palawan.
It also cited a Department of State spokesperson expressing concern in 2012 over China's upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha City in the West Philippine Sea and the establishment of a new military garrison in the contested area.
The resolution added that in January 2013, a Chinese naval ship allegedly fixed its weapons-targeting radar on Japanese vessels near the Senkaku islands, and on April 23, 2013, 8 Chinese marine surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone off the Senkaku Islands, further escalating regional tensions.
The senators said Beijing recently took other unilateral steps, including declaring the Senkaku Islands a "core interest", "improperly drawing'' baselines around the Senkaku Islands, and maintaining a military presence around the islands that are under control by Japan.
The resolution is asking the US Senate to condemn "the use of coercion, threats, or force by naval, maritime security, or fishing vessels and military or civilian aircraft in the South China Sea and the East China Sea to assert disputed maritime or territorial claims or alter the status quo."
It urged all parties in the disputed areas to exercise self-restraint to prevent any acts in that would escalate tensions.
The resolution, which highlighted US interests in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the Asia-Pacific, urged member-states of ASEAN and China to develop a code of conduct of parties in the West Philippine Sea.
It said claimants in the West Philippine Sea should resolve disputes through processes that adhere to international law, including via international arbitration.
The resolution also supports the alliances forged by the US Armed Forces with other countries in the region to ensure peace. With a report by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com