MANILA — China has again rejected international pressure and downplayed the effect of its controversial new Coast Guard Law, invoking international law as it asserted sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea.
In remarks on Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China is just upholding its “territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.”
Zhao also pointed out that despite this, the nation remains committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes.
“China's sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea have been formed in the course of a long history, and are in line with international law and practice,” the spokesperson said.
China lays claim to almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than one-third of global trade passes. Its fortification of artificial islands with military assets, including airstrips and anti-ship missiles, has drawn fierce criticism from other claimants.
The nation will also continue “safeguarding peace and stability” in the disputed area with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, according to the spokesperson.
ASEAN and China are currently negotiating a binding Code of Conduct in the contested waters.
“China hopes countries outside the region will duly respect the efforts of China and other regional countries to properly handle maritime disputes and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the official explained.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said that he already filed a diplomatic protest against China’s move, despite earlier saying on Twitter that the Chinese coast guard law was "none of our business."
The United States has been rejecting China's maritime claims in the disputed area, saying that their claims are beyond what is permitted under international law.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, said this week that the US “pledged to stand” with the Southeast Asian claimants despite China’s pressure.