Monday, June 23, 2014

Obama tells China, ASEAN: Resolve sea dispute peacefully

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 22): Obama tells China, ASEAN: Resolve sea dispute peacefully

United States President Barack Obama urged China and the other Southeast Asian countries with claims over parts of the South China Sea to peacefully resolve their territorial disputes and avoid escalating tensions.

“It is important for us to be able to resolve disputes like maritime disputes in accordance with international law, and encourage all parties concerned to maintain a legal framework for resolving issues, as opposed to possible escalation that could have an impact on navigation and commerce,” President Obama said on Saturday (Manila time) following an Oval Office meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who expressed similar concerns.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the US and New Zealand said they “share the goal of a stable and secure world, buttressed by the principles of peaceful resolution of disputes and respect for universal rights and freedoms.”

“Our two countries work side-by-side to support peace and stability both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally,” the two leaders declared.

The US and New Zealand further recognize the importance of regional institutions in the Asia-Pacific region “that promote rules and norms and foster cooperative efforts to address shared challenges.”

“As such, both countries are working with fora such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, and the Pacific Islands Forum to strengthen these rules and norms,” they said.

Regarding regional maritime disputes, both countries stressed that they are united in supporting the peaceful resolution of disputes, the respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce, and the preservation of the freedom of navigation and overflight.

In the South China Sea, President Obama and Prime Minister Key called on ASEAN and China to reach early agreement on a meaningful and effective Code of Conduct.

In discussing the need for diplomatic and dialogue to resolve disputes, the two leaders “rejected the use of intimidation, coercion, and aggression to advance any maritime claims.”

The two leaders finally reinforced the call for claimants to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, which is rich in natural resources and crisscrossed by some of the world’s busiest sea lanes. That has brought it into dispute with other neighbors, including the Philippines, a longtime US ally.

Among ASEAN Member States with claims over South China Sea, only the Philippines has so far filed an arbitration case “with respect to the dispute with China over the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea. On January 22, 2013 , Manila formally served China with a Notification and Statement of Claim.

However, China presented the Philippines with a diplomatic note in which it described “the Position of China on the South China Sea issues,” and rejected and returned the Philippines’ Notification.

In accordance with the Tribunal’s first Procedural Order dated August 27, 2013, the Philippines filed its Memorial last March 30, addressing matters relating to the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal, the admissibility of the Philippines’ claim, as well as the merits of the dispute.

The UN-backed Arbitral Tribunal hearing the case brought by the Philippines against China under Annex VII to the UNCLOS over their territorial dispute in the South China Sea has fixed December 15, 2014 as the date for the Chinese government to submit its Counter-Memorial responding to the Philippines’ Memorial.

Still, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which acts as the Registry in the proceedings. received a Note Verbale from China in which it reiterated its position that “it does not accept the arbitration initiated by the Philippines” and that the Note Verbale “shall not be regarded as China’s acceptance of or participation in the proceedings.”

The five-member Arbitral Tribunal is chaired by Judge Thomas A. Mensah of Ghana. The other Members are Judge Jean-Pierre Cot of France, Judge Stanislaw Pawlak of Poland, Professor Alfred Soons of the Netherlands, and Judge RĂ¼diger Wolfrum of Germany.

The PCA is an intergovernmental organization established by the 1899 Hague Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes.

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