ASEAN nations have refused a US-backed proposal to mention the Hague tribunal ruling against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea in a joint statement.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday urged China and the Philippines to exercise restraint and reduce tensions over their maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
Speaking at the third Japan-US Military Statesmen Forum, he cited India’s response to a 2014 arbitration case brought by Bangladesh over a maritime border dispute as “an example of a great power acting responsibly”, leading to a “more peaceful and prosperous region”.
China has said it would exit from UNCLOS but has not had the nerve to do so since this action will make it an outlaw state flouting the rules-based worldwide order that is the norm among nations.
“Conversation will continue to proceed”, he said.
It did not mention the recent ruling by a five-man Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague which struck down China’s claims to over two-thirds of the South China Sea. The two previously met in Beijing in late April.
China claims most of the sea, but ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have rival claims.
Yasay said former President Fidel V. Ramos had accepted the offer of President Duterte to be the special envoy to negotiate with China.
Yasay said the South China Sea arbitration was an issue between China and the Philippines.
“Like Cambodia, we explained that Cambodia was not involved in demanding sovereignty in the South China Sea, so Cambodia kept its stance neutral, and was not on any side”, Mr. Sounry said, adding that the dispute in the South China Sea was between the Philippines and China, not China and Asean.
In Manila Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with senior Philippine officials, including new Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The foreign ministers’ statement shows that we are united in safeguarding our house from global geopolitical pressure”, Retno said.
Manila agreed to drop the reference to the ruling in the communique, one ASEAN diplomat said on Monday, in an effort to prevent the disagreement leading to the group failing to issue a statement.
“The ministers expressed their strong support for the rule of law and called on China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal’s Award of July 12 in the Philippines-China arbitration, which is final and legally binding on both parties”, the trilateral statement said. The ruling denied Beijing’s argument that it has sole possession of the waters.
The United States and China have increasingly been at odds over China’s claims to most of the South China Sea, a waterway through which $5 trillion of trade moves annually, where the United States has sought to assert its right to freedom of navigation. It is also believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas.
“I was just conscious of the fact that our president had said that whatever we will do, we will not violate the law, we will uphold the constitution and we will promote the paramount national interest”, Yasay said.