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Statement from Foreign Affairs & Armed Services Democrats on South China Sea Decision

STATEMENT FROM FOREIGN AFFAIRS & ARMED SERVICES DEMOCRATS ON SOUTH CHINA SEA DECISION

WASHINGTON—Today, Democratic Members of the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Armed Services issued the following statement regarding the International Tribunal’s decision in the case of The Republic of the Philippines vs. The People’s Republic of China:

“We welcome the Tribunal’s ruling today in the case of The Republic of the Philippines vs. The People’s Republic of China. The ruling underscores the importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We view it as binding on both parties involved and we hope that all parties will abide by it. 

“Today’s decision presents a number of important opportunities:

“Following the Tribunal’s decision, we hope that all claimants will renew their efforts to resolve the maritime disputes in the South China Sea in a manner that is peaceful and consistent with international law.  We commend the government of the Philippines for their decision present its case through international arbitration. 

“The Tribunal’s ruling is significant. Governments must decide whether or not the Asia-Pacific region will continue to be guided by the rules, norms, and respect for international law that have made it one of the most prosperous regions of the world. 

“The ruling also presents an opportunity for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to speak with one voice on a matter of deep political and strategic importance, not just to the Philippines, but to the its entire membership.

“Finally, the United States Senate should take steps to do what the last three presidents, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Coast Guard have long requested: to ratify UNCLOS and to protect U.S. interests by ensuring that the United States is a full and participating party to this important international agreement.

“The United States will continue to uphold its commitment to the Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, to uphold its commitment to international law in the Asia-Pacific region, and to promote the freedom of navigation in the seas and in the air in accordance with international law.”

Joining in the statement were Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Armed Services; Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific; Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces; Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA); Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU); Rep. Juaquin Castro (D-TX); Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA); Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL); Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); Rep. William Keating (D-MA); Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI); Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA); Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA); Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY); Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).

Background:

On July 12, 2016The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, announced a historic ruling on the Philippines' case against China over disputed claims in the South China Sea. The Arbitral Tribunal was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Philippines and China, both parties to the Convention, are legally bound to abide by the ruling, although PRC government has said repeatedly that they do not believe that the Tribunal has jurisdiction in this case and thus will not abide by the decision.  The United States signed the Law of the Sea Agreement but has never ratified the convention.