Japan and the United States have urged China to respect the ruling of an international tribunal rejecting its expansive claims in the South China Sea, as Monday marked five years since the landmark decision that the Communist-led government has refused to accept.
On the same day, China's military criticized the United States for sending a warship into waters around the disputed Paracel Islands, claimed by the Asian country, in the sea -- a strategic waterway through which more than one-third of global trade passes.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in a statement released Monday that China's failure to comply with the ruling "undermines the rule of law as a fundamental value of the international community."
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China has no historical rights to resources in the South China Sea based on its expansive, self-proclaimed "nine-dash line."
The case was brought to the court by the Philippines and the decision invalidated China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.
China, however, has built artificial islands with military infrastructure there.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Monday that China's sovereignty and rights in the sea has been "formed in the long historical course" based on sufficient "legal basis."
"Until the early 1970s, no nation has raised objections" to China's position, Zhao said, adding, "The South China Sea is the common home of regional countries and should not be a hunting ground for the United States to pursue its geopolitical self-interest."
Motegi said China's action not to comply with the ruling "is against the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law" including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the rules-based maritime order in South China Sea is under greater threat than anywhere else, and called on China "to abide by its obligations under international law" and "cease its provocative behavior."
In a statement released Sunday, Blinken asked China to also "take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, big and small."
The Japanese foreign minister said Tokyo "remains seriously concerned" about the situation in the waters and reiterated "strong opposition" to unilateral attempts to change the status quo of the region by force or coercion.
Motegi also said Japan "highly appreciates" the Philippines' renewed commitment toward a peaceful resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea, citing President Rodrigo Duterte's statement at the UN General Assembly last year.
The ruling was "beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon," Duterte told world leaders, adding, "We firmly reject attempts to undermine it."
On Monday, meanwhile, the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Southern Theater Command said the US warship entered the nation's territorial waters "without the approval" of its government.
The activity, called by the US Navy a "freedom of navigation operation" and carried out earlier in the day by the guided-missile destroyer Benford, has "severely undermined peace and stability in the South China Sea," the military said.
"We strongly urge the United States to stop such provocative actions and strictly control maritime and air military activities. Otherwise, all consequences arising from this will be borne by the United States," it added.
The Paracel Islands, called Xisha by Beijing, are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
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