U.S. Sen. McCain urges South East Asia to back South China Sea ruling
U.S. Sen. John McCain on Friday urged Southeast Asian nations to support the upcoming ruling of an international tribunal on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China on their South China Sea dispute, while he berated the Chinese for bullying smaller countries in the region.
“The legitimacy of this arbitration decision will be derived from the actions of nations that are not parties to the case, especially those in Southeast Asia,” McCain said in a lecture in Singapore organized by a local state-run think tank.
“With the legitimacy and integrity of the rule of law now at stake, the world is looking to see what choice Southeast Asia makes,” said McCain, who is also here to attend the Asia Security Summit, a three-day conference organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
The Arizona senator, a former Republic presidential nominee who currently chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the choice for Southeast Asia should not be seen as “between the United States and China” but rather between “the rules-based order” and “a darker future…where might makes right and set the rules and break them.”
His speech cast China as a bully and a lawbreaker.
“Regrettably in recent years, there have been disturbing signs that China is maneuvering toward a policy of intimidation and coercion — harassing fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.”
McCain said China has been conducting dangerous intercepts of military aircraft over the South China Sea, conducting land reclamation on disputed islands and reefs, and militarizing the contested waters, while also using trade as a weapon in its disputes with its neighbors.
Such actions, he said, have shattered the commitments it made with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.
McCain called on China to respect the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which is expected within the next few weeks.
“Just as it is for Southeast Asia, the upcoming arbitration decision will be a test for China,” he said.
If China recognizes the ruling and “chooses the path of partnership and cooperation,” he said, its “growing influence will be welcomed by the international community.”
But if the Chinese ignore the ruling, “they would face severe criticism from the world opinion” and “it will harm…their image as a nation that is a peaceful and contributing member of the community of nations particularly in Asia.”