US, Japan, Australia tell PHL: Use court victory in sea dispute

By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral / Aug 8, 2017 / bworldonline

China claims most parts of the strategic waterway, where trillion dollars’ worth of ship-borne goods pass through annually. It has also installed defense facilities on its man-made islands there.
However, the Asian power’s maritime ambitions were challenged by the Philippines, another claimant nation, in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. The tribunal, in a June 2016 decision, ruled in Manila’s favor.

In a joint statement issued after a trilateral dialogue on the sidelines of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting in Manila, the US, Australia, and Japan denounced Beijing’s maritime encroachment and urged Manila to follow the arbitral ruling.

The three countries likewise reminded China to recognize the international court’s decision, noting that the verdict is “final and legally binding on both parties.”

The three nations are among ASEAN’s dialogue partners.

“The Ministers urged… claimants to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarization of disputed features, and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment,” the statement read.

Aside from the Philippines and China, three other ASEAN countries — Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia — have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Taking office shortly before Manila won in the legal battle against China, Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte sought warmer ties with Beijing while aiming to draw in billions of dollars in Chinese aid and investment.

Mr. Duterte has set aside the verdict and vowed to revisit it later in his term.

CODE OF CONDUCT

Fifteen years ago, China and ASEAN members committed to sign a Code of Conduct (CoC) for the South China Sea, but progress has been slow amid the maritime dispute over the strategic waterway.

In the absence of a legally binding agreement, the parties involved adopted in 2002 a separate document called the Declaration on the Conduct (DoC) of parties involved in the sea row, which urges claimants to exercise restraint and non-militarization of the sea. Read more…

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