MANILA — For the freedom of navigation to mean anything in the South China Sea (SCS), the United States must also use its power to uphold the sovereign rights of states surrounding the strategic waters, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Saturday.
“Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea by itself is merely the freedom to walk in a zoo past cages of animals. Freedom of navigation to mean anything includes willingness to use US power to uphold the sovereign rights of the littoral states of Southeast Asia or it is nothing,” Locsin said, reacting to a statement from the US Embassy in Manila.
On Friday, the US issued a comment on the collision near Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea involving Chinese and Filipino boats.
At the same time, it reiterated Washington’s “clear” position on the South China Sea.
“We saw news reports of the collision at sea. We are thankful none of the Filipino fishermen lost their lives and glad that Vietnamese fishermen rescued them from the open sea,” it said.
“Our position on the South China Sea is clear: We support lawful uses of the sea, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peace and stability. We urge all parties to refrain from using coercion and intimidation to assert their territorial and maritime claims,” it added.
Although Locsin acknowledged that the statement was meant to fence-sit, he recalled that “the last time the US opened its mouth, it told the Philippines and China to stand down in Scarborough and withdraw.”
“We did. China stayed. The US was silent. Silence gives consent. We lost. Under (President Donald) Trump this is supposed to change. (Former president Barack) Obama’s craven diplomats must be purged from State,” he said.
China, the Philippines, and several littoral states have overlapping claims in the vast South China Sea, believed to have deposits of oil and natural gases. (PNA)