South China Sea issues must be resolved based on international law, says Hisham

Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the South China Sea must remain a sea of peace and trade. (Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Matters relating to the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully based on recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, said Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

He said in a tweet yesterday he discussed the matter over the phone with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Hishammuddin said the South China Sea must remain a sea of peace and trade.

The US Department of State’s principal deputy spokesman, Cale Brown, said in a statement on the department’s website that Pompeo and Hishammuddin also discussed the two countries’ shared respect for international law and the rules-based maritime order in the South China Sea.

“Productive call today (Thursday) with Malaysian Foreign Minister @HishammuddinH2O to discuss our shared interests in the South China Sea. Our US-Malaysia comprehensive partnership is vital in helping ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pompeo tweeted.

On Wednesday, Hishammuddin told the Dewan Rakyat that Malaysia should not be caught in the geopolitics of the superpowers, and efforts must be made to avoid any unwanted incidents in the South China Sea, including military clashes by any party.

Hishammuddin Hussein

He said Malaysia had always been committed to resolving the South China Sea issue constructively via appropriate diplomatic forums and channels.

Malaysia last month maintained its position that all parties must work together to ensure peace, security and stability as well as continue to play an active role in ensuring that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace and trade.

On July 13, Pompeo said China’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea were completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.

“Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion and replace international law with ‘might makes right’,” he said.

In response, the Chinese embassy in Malaysia said on July 20 China was always committed to the dual-track approach in the South China Sea issue and upholding the principle that all countries were equal in seeking to resolve the disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultations.

The embassy spokesman added that China confined its oil and gas development and fishing activities in the South China Sea strictly within the waters under its jurisdiction, in accordance with relevant international laws, including UNCLOS and China’s domestic legislations.

In the Auditor-General’s Report 2018, it was revealed that Chinese Coast Guard vessels were detected to have encroached on Malaysia’s waters 89 times from 2016 to 2019 and their presence had been identified to be related to claims over the South China Sea, especially the Beting Patinggi Ali area.

“Five diplomatic protest notes have been issued to China for trespassing into Malaysian waters following 29 reports lodged by the Royal Malaysian Navy from 2018 to 2019,” the report said.