US President Barack Obama called on China on Wednesday to end its land reclamation in the controversial South China Sea and restated his support for the Philippines’ to settle its territorial dispute with China by the way of international arbitration.
"We’re not claimants ourselves but we fully support a process in which through international laws and international norms these issues are resolved,” Obama said after meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in Manila.
Obama also clarified, “The freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea must be upheld.”
US and its allies have supported a rule-based order in the area, which has a very strategic importance for the regional security and the global economy, Obama said.
According to Bloomberg News, James Kraska, research director at the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the US Naval War College stated, “China is increasingly isolated on this issue, as states such as Malaysia and Indonesia that once were rather circumspect have become worried about China,” and added “The US has become progressively more supportive of the arbitration.”
Reactions in the past
The US launched a naval mission last month, deploying the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen near the two artificial islands built by China, on the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.
The move prompted reaction in China, as Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui called it “extremely irresponsible.” Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US also described the operation as “a very serious provocation, politically and militarily.”
Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan warned US on its activities in the problematic South China Sea and underlined that the US should give up on their attempts.
The defence minister also said that China considered the US naval patrol in the South China Sea, as a threat against China's sovereignty and security interests last month.
However, Bill Urban, a US Defense Department spokesperson said that “the United States is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law.”
“US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. All operations are conducted in accordance with international law.”
China started its reclamation campaign in the South China Sea by adding almost 3,000 acres of artificial land and mere rocks, barely above the water and claimed the islands are being built for civilian purposes.
After satellite photographs showing the construction of three military length airstrips that might be used for military purposes emerged, the US, Japan and Philippines stated that they are concerned by China’s expansion.