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Maritime disputes need central role of ASEAN

Update: November, 16/2016 - 10:34
The eighth International Conference on the East Sea, themed “Cooperation for Regional Security and Development,” wrapped up in Nha Trang City yesterday, stressing the need to promote ASEAN’s central role in managing disputes in the East Sea. — Photo khanhhoa.com.vn

NHA TRANG — The eighth International Conference on the East Sea, themed “Cooperation for Regional Security and Development,” wrapped up in Nha Trang City yesterday, stressing the need to promote ASEAN’s central role in managing disputes in the East Sea.

Through the course of seven sessions with 28 presentations, delegates joined heated discussions on regional and global contexts, recent unfoldings in the East Sea, the legal, economic, political and historic aspects in the East Sea dispute and prospects of dispute settlement and management in the region.

Commenting on the origin of the East Sea dispute, many participating scholars said it began decades ago, saying that the nine-dash line claimed by China defines sovereignty over islands without resorting to any legal and scientific grounds.

Concerning the recent developments in the East Sea, they shared views that China is likely to reach consensus with several Southeast Asian countries to soften disputes, but on field it has still maintained or even enhanced its presence and control in the area, including the Scarborough Shoal and Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelago.

The construction and installation of military and surveillance equipment in Đá Chữ Thập (Fiery Cross Reef), Vành Khăn (Mischief Reef) and Subi reef have not slowed down, proving that China has not changed its long-term goal of gaining full control over the East Sea, which is also a major source of regional tension.

Underscoring ASEAN’s central role in managing East Sea dispute, they said countries are still concerned about China’s activities in the East Sea, given that the US’s Asia-Pacific-oriented policy under the new administration remains unclear.

Concerning political-economic aspects, scholars agree that in order to ensure regional security and stability, concerned partiesneed to exercise self-restraint, maintain the status quo, avoid unilateral actions in the East Sea such as militarising occupied areas and declaring the Air Defence Identification Zone.

They called for mechanisms to manage conflicts in fishing, fuel production and marine environment protection.

Regarding the legal aspect, participants said the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration acknowledges that recent developments in the East Sea run counter to the regulations of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

They added that the ruling’s conclusions open up a chance for cooperation in fields of common interest such as fishing, maritime safety and environment protection.

Several opinions suggested developing mechanisms on bilateral or trilateral cooperation for parties in the East Sea, building a code of conduct for unplanned encounters at sea and coordinating in protecting the environment and fisheries resources.

Others proposed dialogues between maritime law enforcement forces from East Sea-bordering countries, building a marine park and enhancing collaboration among scientists.

Mechanisms such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Seabed Authority should be used effectively, they said.

Members of the annual Young Leaders Programme suggested building a network of young researchers on the East Sea issue, marine environment protection, enhancing liaison between parties concerned.

In his closing speech, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam Associate Professor Nguyễn Vũ Tùng urged concerned parties to take constructive approaches, respect each other and abide by international law.

The conference took place in an open, straightforward and practical manner and demonstrated meaningful efforts to contribute to international cooperation for peace and stability in the East Sea, he said.--VNS

 

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