International Court to Decide Sovereignty Issue in South China Sea
International Court to
Decide Sovereignty Issue in South China Sea
By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — July 08, 2016 — An international court in The Hague, Netherlands,
will rule next week on China’s claims to the South China Sea, and American
officials urged China to accept the court’s ruling, a senior Defense Department
official told Congress yesterday.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration will decide a case brought
by the Philippines in 2013 over the Scarborough Shoals. Both the Philippines and
China claim sovereignty over the area.
Maintaining Sea Lines of Communication
The United States is interested in maintaining the sea lines
of communication through international waterways and airways, Abraham M. Denmark,
the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said at a joint hearing
of two subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee here.
The court’s ruling will mark an important crossroads for the
region, Denmark said. “It will present an opportunity for those in the region to
determine whether the Asia-Pacific’s future will be defined by adherence to
international laws and norms that have enabled it to prosper or that the
region’s future will be determined by raw calculations of power,” he added.
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)
departs Manila, Philippines, after a port call
China and the Philippines are two of claimants of areas in
the South China Sea, said Denmark, noting other nations with claims in the area
include Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. China, he told the
joint panel, has said it will not accept the court’s ruling.
The South China Sea is a critical world crossroads, with
trillions of dollars’ worth of goods transiting through the region. The U.S.
Navy has patrolled the sea since World War II, creating the stability that has
allowed the nations of the region to prosper, Denmark said. “It is central to
our strategy of strengthening a principled, rules-based order that enables
regional stability and prosperity,” he said.
China is seeking to assert its claims through occupation --
literally building islands in the Spratly Islands and placing airfields, harbors
and logistics hubs that could support military aircraft and ships, Denmark said.
Working to Ensure Peace, Stability in
The United States is pursuing a whole-of-government approach
to resolving the problems in the region, he said, noting that the Defense
Department is working with the State Department and others to ensure peace and
Denmark said DoD is working along four lines of effort in the
South China Sea. The first is presence. The United States has a credible,
powerful capability in the region, he said, that creates stability and provides
the space for diplomacy. “We’ve increased our military presence and we’re
ensuring our presence is geographically distributed, operationally resilient and
politically sustainable,” he added.
The second line of effort is an increase in the tempo of
military operations in the region, he told the panel. Exercises, freedom of
navigation exercises and presence operations mean DoD continues to fly, sail and
operate “wherever international law allows so that others can do the same,”
DoD is also working with partner nations to enhance their
capabilities and capacity, particularly through work with the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations, Denmark said.
“Finally, we are engaging China directly to reduce risk. … We
seek to keep lines of communication with Beijing open and improve our
cooperation in areas of mutual interest and to speak candidly and constructively
when we disagree,” he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)