By: Elena Grace Flores
Rep. Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on sea power, said the world is watching whether China behaves like a responsible stakeholder in the international system, and, if not, to see how America responds.
As China claims most of the South China Sea, it also asserts that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction as it did not consent to arbitration – where the US also has no bussiness; according to them. The U.S., however cannot afford to allow disruption on the freedom of navigation and commerce in the disputed seas that carry more than half the world’s merchant fleet tonnage. Senior State Department official Colin Willett told the hearing that the U.S. will not hesitate to defend its national security interests and honor commitments to Asia-Pacific allies and partners.
China might have militarized a reef off already at the Philippine coast, the Scarborough Shoal, prompting the Philippines to initiate the legal case in 2013. In the past two years, China has constructed artificial islands and placed military facilities on disputed features elsewhere in the South China Sea. Willett said the ruling in the case would not resolve sovereignty issues, but could potentially narrow down the areas that are legitimately subject to dispute.
Scarborough Shoal militarization by China is not known to hurt the U.S. national security interests, or invoke a U.S.-Philippine treaty, which calls for the allies to help defend each other if there is an armed attack on their armed forces, public vessels, aircraft or island territories under their jurisdiction in the Pacific.”Scarborough Reef is a disputed feature that any countries has no sovereignty over. Therefore America’s treaty commitment to the Philippines is absolutely ironclad,” said Willett, adding that occupying a currently unoccupied land feature or militarizing an occupied feature would be very dangerous and destabilizing – and threatens world peace and security .