Opinion / Wang Hui

It's time Manila stopped trying Beijing's patience

By Wang Hui (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-22 07:36

It's time Manila stopped trying Beijing's patience

View of part of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. [Photo/IC]

As a country that has always valued regional peace and stability and believed in good neighborliness, China has exercised utmost restraint in the South China Sea disputes and insisted they should be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

But the provocations and tricks of countries such as the Philippines show China's goodwill and patience are being paid back with deceptions and defiance. In a little more than one week, Manila has put up quite a show to fish for its illegal interests in the waters. To occupy Chinese islands and islets in the South China Sea, it has not hesitated to mislead the public and confuse right with wrong.

On July 14, the Google Maps website quietly removed the Chinese name for a South China Sea shoal, the Huangyan Island, from its services after some Philippine netizens launched an online campaign demanding that the Internet giant stop identifying the island as part of China's maritime territory. Google maps previously labeled Huangyan Island as part of Zhongsha Islands, which is an undeniable truth. A change of name cannot change the fact that the island has belonged to China since ancient times.

Compared with the naming farce, Manila's ongoing efforts to reinforce its rusting military vessel on China's Ren'ai Reef in the South China Sea is nothing but a joke. In 1999, the Philippines deliberately grounded a naval vessel, the Sierra Madre on Ren'ai Reef. Since then, it has rotated soldiers on board and regularly sent supplies to them. Last week, a Reuters report said Manila has been quietly reinforcing the warship to prevent it from disintegrating.

The island country wishes its decaying warship can serve forever so that it can continue its illegal occupation of China's Ren'ai Reef. Such a despicable scheme shows Manila is at its wits' end, because the move lays bare the illegal nature of its military presence on Ren'ai Reef.

Moreover, Manila sent a team of high-ranking officials to The Hague earlier this month to play out its arbitration farce despite the fact that the International Court has no jurisdiction over the South China Sea disputes.

Chinese and international law experts have shown how absurd Manila's arbitration attempt is. Since both countries had reservations while rectifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea years ago, the international law simply does not apply to the maritime dispute between Beijing and Manila.

International arbitration will not help resolve the South China Sea disputes; instead, it will complicate the matter further. China has the right not to participate in or accept any international arbitration that goes against its will or undermines its legitimate rights and interests. Hence, China's refusal to be involved in the proceedings at The Hague is fully justified. It is also justified because China follows the common international practice of resolving disputes on territorial sovereignty and maritime rights only through direct negotiations with the countries directly concerned.

The tricks the Philippines is trying over South China Sea issue show that its claims are not based on reason or law. By insisting on taking the wrong course, Manila can only create waves in the troubled waters and erode its credibility.

As a big country playing a greater role both globally and regionally, China does not lack the means or resources to reinforce its legitimate claims and safeguard its maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. Yet despite being the victim of the maritime disputes, it has remained committed to resolving the issue with the parties concerned, including the Philippines, through peaceful means.

But despite China not having any intention to run into trouble with its neighbors over the maritime disputes, it would be unwise for Manila to continue to try Beijing's patience and force it to take countermeasures.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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