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Let world court settle South China Sea disputes, says Asean

June 28, 2015

China urge to speed up work on binding code of conduct, to allay security fears


BEIJING: Representatives of Asean have urged China to settle disputes in the South China Sea through the International Court of Justice, and to speed up negotiations on a code of conduct.

The pro-chancellor of Malaysia’s Wawasan Open University, Koh Tsu Koon, said disputes that could not be solved through negotiations could be taken to the world court.

He said Asean members, as small countries, were concerned about the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and about the geo-politics (in the region).

“If China is so confident about its historical and legal basis of the claims in the disputed water, why does it hesitate to go to the International Court of Justice?,” he asked.

Koh’s remarks were made at a forum here on Southeast Asian Conflicts and Security Cooperation. He said said all Asean countries had accepted the world court as a common platform to resolve problems.

China has set out claims to the South China Sea that extend far south of its coastline reaching close to Borneo, and incorporating the strategic Spratly and Paracel islands, with competing and overlapping claims by Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Yesterday, China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said China had been a sea-faring nation from a thousand years ago and that China was first to discover, use and administer the Spratly Islands, which China calls the Nansha Islands.

A speaker from Singapore, Barry Desker of Nanyang Technological University, said that Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia, not involved in the maritime border dispute, nevertheless, shared the view expressed by Koh.

He said the world court had solved cases such as the dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge; and competing claims by Malaysia and Indonesia over Ligitan and Sipadan islands.

Desker said China’s land reclamation in the disputed waters were a source of concern for Asean. However, there was also a desire to promote cooperation with China in expanding trade and investment. “That’s why, many in Asean support China’s Maritime Silk Road concept,” he noted.

The vice-president of China’s Institute of International Studies, Ruan Zongze, said that while Asean had urged China to accelerate talks on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, the Philippines on the other hand had sought to take the dispute to the world court.

Koh said Asean’s 10 members did not put any emphasis on supporting the Philippines’s claim.

Asean members and China signed a declaration in 2002 to create the code of conduct which would be legally binding on all, but it has yet to come into being.




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