Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned. In this regard the Ministers called for full respect of all provisions of UNCLOS, as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC.
The statement is notable as the first mention of the South China Sea disputes in a Russia-India-China trilateral statement. Last year, at their 13th annual meeting, the foreign ministers omitted any mention of the disputes, despite the fact that China’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly Islands was already beginning to raise red flags in the international press. This year, however, with a decision looming at at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the case Philippines v. China —a decision that is likely to not go in China’s favor by most counts—Beijing is looking to shore up its position on the disputes.
Namely, the statement that “All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned” is nearly verbatim lifted from China’s frequent foreign ministry statements on the South China Sea disputes. China opposes the internationalization of dispute resolution in the South China Sea, and has said it does not recognize the authority of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in its disputes with the Philippines.
Moreover, last week, before the trilateral meeting in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued similar remarks. ”I am convinced that they (attempts to internationalize the issue) are completely counterproductive,” Lavrov said at the time, according to Xinhua. ”Only negotiations, which China and the ASEAN are pursuing, can bring the desired result, namely, mutually acceptable agreements.” The alignment of Russia’s position with China’s came shortly after the G7 group of nations—a group that formerly included Russia as the G8—issued a forceful declaration on the South China Sea. Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said that China appreciated Lavrov’s comments. Read more…