Thursday, September 8, 2016

Obama warns China over South China Sea

US President Barack Obama warned Beijing Thursday it could not ignore a tribunal's ruling rejecting its sweeping claims to the South China Sea, driving tensions higher in a territorial row that threatens regional security. The dispute has raised fears of military confrontation between the world's superpowers, with China determined to cement control of the strategically vital waters despite a July verdict that its claims have no legal basis.

"The landmark arbitration ruling in July, which is binding, helped to clarify maritime rights in the region," Obama told Southeast Asian leaders.
Obama's emphasis on the ruling being legally "binding" attracted an immediate reaction from China, which has argued the United States has no role to play in the dispute.

"We hope the US can take an objective and just attitude with respect to South China Sea issues," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.
The Philippines released photos on Wednesday it said showed renewed Chinese island-building activity. The Chinese ships were at Scarborough Shoal, within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone that China took de-facto control of in 2012. If China does build an island at Scarborough Shoal, it could lead to a military outpost just 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the main Philippine island where US forces are stationed. Obama warned Chinese President Xi Jinping in March not to build at the shoal.
Analysts have said Chinese island-building at Scarborough Shoal could trigger a military confrontation.