• Melo Acuna

ASEAN cites1982 UNCLOS as basis for substantive negotiations on SCS issues

ASEAN underscores calls for stability and safety of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea

MANILA – The 36th ASEAN Summit, the first ever held via video conference ended with Summit Chairman Nguyen Xuan Phuc underscoring the need to maintain and promote a peaceful, secure, stable and safe South China Sea where freedom of navigation and over-flight is assured.

In the Chairman’s Statement released today, the ten-nation Association said it is important for the countries to implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea being a “sea of peace, stability and prosperity.”

The group cited the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as basis for the progress of what he described as “substantive negotiations” towards the early conclusion of the awaited Code of Conduct in the South China Sea which is consistent with international law.

The Summit chairman further said they appreciate the completion of the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text where they emphasized the need to keep and promote an environment conducive to the COC negotiations along with practical measures to reduce possible tension and risk of accidents, misunderstanding and miscalculation.

He said they also talked about the current situation in the South China Sea where concerns were aired over land reclamations which included recent developments, activities and serious incidents which led to the erosion of trust and confidence, increased tensions which may undermine peace, security and the region’s stability.

ASEAN underscored the need to promote mutual trust and confidence and exercise self-restraint in activities that may complicate or escalate disputes and impact on peace and stability as the leadership called on parties to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes according to universally recognized principles of international law which includes the 1982 UNCLOS as basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and legitimate interests over maritime zones.

“We reaffirmed that the 1982 UNCLOS is the basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and legitimate interests over maritime zones, and the 1982 UNCLOS sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out,” the ASEAN statement disclosed.

The ten-member regional organization said they emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimant countries and other states to avoid further complications of the situation, and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.

It will be recalled a number of ASEAN countries are engaged in territorial disputes with the People’s Republic of China. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Manila has not issued any comment on the ASEAN statement as of this writing.

The 27-page Chairman’s Statement focused on partnership and cooperation to battle threats from COVID-19 and cushion the impact of economic downturn brought about by the pandemic. (Melo M. Acuña)

Photo from ASEAN website.

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