Sea dispute: Keep off, China official tells world community

Dai-Bingguo

BEIJING: A veteran Chinese foreign policy maker has warned the international community against putting into action an imminent verdict in a dispute between Beijing and Manila over the South China Sea.

Dai Bingguo, who was vice foreign minister and then state councillor until his retirement in early 2013, warned that China would not stand by idly if anyone forced it to comply with the verdict.

A Wall Street Journal report said Dai’s comments came a week before an arbitration tribunal in The Hague was due to issue its ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Philippines in 2013 challenging Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.

The ruling is widely expected to be in favour of the Philippines.

The report said Chinese officials had repeatedly dismissed the tribunal’s authority and said they would ignore the verdict, despite calls from the US and its allies for China to comply.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Dai as telling a gathering of officials of Chinese and US think tanks here: “I hear the arbitration ruling will come out soon, and so be it. There’s no big deal for it amounts to nothing more than a piece of waste paper.

“No one and no country should implement the award in any form, much less force China into implementation,” he said. “And the Philippines must be dissuaded from making any further provocation. Otherwise, China would not sit idle.”

He also urged the US to scale back its “heavy-handed intervention” in the disputed waters and accused Washington of sowing discord and provoking Beijing.

He said: “The temperature of the South China Sea is now high enough. If such momentum went unchecked, accidents could happen and the South China Sea might sink into chaos and so might the entirety of Asia.”

The WSJ report said Beijing at times called on retired Communist Party insiders to speak more directly and forcefully on issues than Chinese leaders and officials usually did.

“We in China would not be intimidated by the US actions, not even if the US sent all the 10 aircraft carriers to the South China Sea,” Dai said.

Saying the US could pay a high price if it decided to get involved, he added that the discord over the South China Sea shouldn’t be allowed to upset a “basically sound” bilateral relationship.