China on Wednesday accused the Philippines of ignoring its offer to set up a bilateral talks mechanism on maritime affairs, shortly before an international tribunal is expected to rule on Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
China said its proposals have “fallen on deaf ears” and that the Philippines has falsely represented them.
Beijing said the two sides have met repeatedly to discuss ways to manage maritime disputes but have never managed to set up talks aimed at settling them.
“China has on a number of occasions proposed with the Philippines the establishment of a China-Philippine regular consultation mechanism on maritime issues; however, to date, there has never been any response from the Philippine side,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The statement was unusual for tempering Beijing’s typically defiant tone, saying the door to talks is open and has been from the start.
Some observers say the Chinese government often struggles to be heard.
“China is not good at getting its voice heard by the rest of the world,” said Chen Gang of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore. “I think language is a factor, but there are other reasons, including soft power. . . . They are using their own logic to argue their points.”
Chen said China tends to air its views using unfamiliar perspectives. Southeast Asian nations, for example, regard territorial disputes as legal problems, whereas Chinese officials tend to view them from a historical and cultural perspective, he said.
“This kind of logic may not be well accepted by international society,” Chen added.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to rule shortly in a case brought by the Philippines over China’s possession of and development on islets and shoals that Manila considers Philippine territory.
Filed in 2013, the case is an effort by Manila to obtain endorsement of its right to exploit waters and seabed resources up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from its shores, as allowed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
When the ruling comes, it is possible that Manila will set it aside. Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has said he is open to placing the dispute on ice if Beijing agrees to do the same.
China insists it is ignoring the suit and will pay no attention to the findings.
“China’s position of not accepting or participating in the Philippines arbitration case . . . has not and will not change,” State Councilor Yang Jiechi said in a statement Tuesday after two days of talks on bilateral affairs with a team from Washington led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
However, Yang said Beijing is ready to step up communication with Washington “at all levels.”
“Our two sides need to respect each other’s interests in the Asia-Pacific, and we’re willing to increase communication on regional affairs through exchanges and dialogue mechanisms at all levels,” he said.
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