Philippines to back China's candidate for the World Court

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. attends a news conference after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
FILE PHOTO: Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. attends a news conference after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines' foreign minister ordered the country's mission to the United Nations on Sunday to vote for China's candidate to fill one of the five seats at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that will become vacant next year.

"You are instructed to cast the Philippine vote for the Chinese candidate to the international court of justice. That is your only clear instruction," Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter without elaborating.

Four of the eight candidates contesting the five positions are incumbent judges whose nine-year terms are due to expire on Feb. 5 next year. One of the four is Chinese Judge Xue Hanqin, who is also the vice president of the ICJ, also known as the World Court.

The ICJ, the highest United Nations court for inter-state disputes, is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. Judges are eligible for re-election.

A United Nations document dated June 29, 2020 showed the Philippines nominated another candidate Japanese Judge Yuji Iwasawa but not Xue.

The foreign ministry said the Philippines can support more than one candidate at the Nov. 11 election as there will be five vacancies.

Since coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued better relations with Beijing, though the Philippines, particularly its military, has harboured a deep mistrust of China over what it sees as intrusions into its territory, bullying of its fishermen and denial of access to its energy resources. China says the disputed waters in the South China Sea belong to China, and its actions there are lawful.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)