BEIJING: A defiant China on Monday dismissed the 2016 verdict of the international tribunal on the South China Sea, rejecting its claims over the area as a piece of “waste paper” and brushed aside US’ fresh backing for the judgement as a “political farce” to smear Beijing.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s remarks came as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) claimed to have “expelled” US Navy destroyer USS Benfold which sailed through the South China Sea (SCS), coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the verdict to assert freedom of navigation.
Without authorisation from the Chinese government, the US guided-missile destroyer illegally trespassed into China’s territorial waters and the PLA Southern Theatre Command organised maritime and aerial forces to track and monitor it and warned it away, Senior Colonel Tian Junli, spokesperson of the command, said in a statement.
The US has been periodically conducting such naval and aerial missions through the SCS to challenge China’s claims.
On the fifth anniversary of the international tribunal on the SCS, which had delivered a stunning blow to China’s expansive sovereignty claims over the all-important sea trade route, the Biden administration upheld the previous Trump-era backing to the tribunal verdict.
In a stern warning to China, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said that any attack on the Philippines by Beijing would draw Washington’s response under a mutual defence treaty with the Philippines.
Reacting to Blinken’s statement, Zhao told a media briefing here that “the ruling is illegal, null and void and a waste paper”.
“China will not accept or participate in this tribunal, will not accept or acknowledge this ruling,” he said, reiterating that Beijing will continue to exercise its control over the area in the SCS.
“The sovereignty and rights of China on the SCS will not be affected by the ruling and China will not accept any assertion or act based on this ruling,” Zhao said.
He termed the tribunal as a “political farce”, saying the US was the “culprit and manipulator of this farce” to smear China.
“This time the US uses the fifth anniversary of the ruling to hype the SCS issue. This political attempt is clear,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.