Avoid provocative statements or actions, urges US

A Filipino with the Philippine national flag painted on her cheek looks on during a demonstration in Manila, Philippines.
A Filipino with the Philippine national flag painted on her cheek looks on during a demonstration in Manila, Philippines. PHOTO: EPA

The United States has called for restraint from all parties in the wake of the arbitration tribunal's ruling on the South China Sea.

Echoing sentiments from several South-east Asian nations yesterday, State Department spokesman John Kirby urged all claimants to "avoid provocative statements or actions".

He also stressed that the US strongly supported the rule of law.

Washington hailed the tribunal's ruling - which, among other things, invalidated China's historical claims based on its "nine-dash" map - as an "important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes" in the South China Sea.

"This decision can and should serve as a new opportunity to renew efforts to address maritime disputes peacefully," Mr Kirby said.

Washington hailed the tribunal's ruling - which, among other things, invalidated China's historical claims based on its "nine-dash" map - as an "important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes" in the South China Sea.

Describing the ruling as "final and legally binding", he urged both China and the Philippines to abide by the result.

Beijing has rejected the tribunal's ruling.

Meanwhile, calls for restraint and efforts to seek a peaceful solution came from several South-east Asian countries yesterday.

In Hanoi, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry welcomed the verdict and stressed that it supported the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Indonesia, meanwhile, said it would continue to encourage the creation of a peaceful, free and neutral zone in the region in order to strengthen the Asean community.

"Indonesia encourages all claimant states to resume talks on the dispute peacefully... and in accordance with international law," said its Foreign Ministry.

In a statement issued yesterday ahead of the ruling, Thailand said the "ultimate goal for all that would benefit the people should be to render the South China Sea a sea of peace, stability and sustainable development".

The response of Asean to the tribunal's ruling is being closely watched amid signs of a growing divide within the 10-member regional grouping over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Yesterday, Asean did not release a joint statement but its Jakarta-based secretariat said through its official Twitter account that member states reaffirmed commitment to the full implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC).

The DOC, which was signed by China and Asean members, states that they should refrain from activities that would complicate or escalate disputes.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha added later in the day that Bangkok would not push for a consensus on the South China Sea issue during the Asean ministerial meeting in Laos later this month, The Nation reported.

"For now, we should reserve our position and let (the contestants) do their own talks," he said.

Elsewhere, Japan - which has its own territorial disputes with China but has no claims in the South China Sea - said all parties should comply with the ruling.

"Japan strongly expects that the parties' compliance with this award will eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea," said a statement from Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

•Additional reporting by Tan Hui Yee and Walter Sim.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2016, with the headline 'Avoid provocative statements or actions, urges US'. Print Edition | Subscribe