Navigation freedom in South China Sea calls for US might

Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Teodoro Locsin Jr.

THE United States must use its power to uphold the sovereign rights of states in Southeast Asia for the freedom of navigation to mean anything in the disputed territory, Foreign  Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Saturday.

Locsin made the reaction following a comment from the US Embassy in Manila urging China and the Philippines to refrain from using coercion and intimidation to assert their maritime claims.

“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,” he said.

The US, on Friday 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.”

On June 9, a Philippine fishing boat was rammed by a Chinese ship and abandoned the Filipino fishermen while their vessel was sinking near Reed Bank in the West Philippine 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,” the US said.

In his tweet, Locsin said “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, Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves.