CHINA has accused the United States (US) of masterminding a 2016 ruling by a United Nations-backed tribunal that voided its expansive claims in the South China Sea.

It also called countries that have supported the Philippines in the sea dispute troublemakers.

“As the mastermind behind the South China Sea arbitration, the US ropes in allies to play up the issue each year on the anniversary of the illegal award to gang up against China and to exert pressure, and force China into accepting the award,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

Countries commemorated the seventh-year anniversary of the ruling on July 12 by issuing statement critical of China’s increasing assertiveness at sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague on July 12, 2016 recognized Manila’s sovereign rights in areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

It said China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its EEZ by building artificial islands and failing to prevent its citizens from fishing in the zone. The tribunal said China should comply with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In a statement on Tuesday, the US urged China to respect international law. It said China should stop its routine harassment of claimant states’ vessels that are lawfully operating in their exclusive economic zones and honor their sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve and manage natural resources in the waterway.

The European Union (EU) also renewed its support for the 2016 decision, calling it “a significant milestone, which is legally binding upon the parties to those proceedings, and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes between the parties.”

But the Chinese Embassy said countries outside the region should “respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interest in the South China Sea.”

It also urged them to stop using the issue “to drive wedges among regional countries” and

“refrain from being a troublemaker to peace and stability in the South China Sea.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza