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ASEAN SUMMIT: Asean foreign ministers call for self-restraint in S. China Sea dispute

Publication Date : 11-05-2014

 

In a clear sign of unity, Asean Foreign Ministers on Saturday asked all parties to exercise self-restraint and resolve the conundrum of South China Sea (SCS) by peaceful means.

"They urged all parties concerned, in accordance with the universally-recognised principles of international law... to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that could undermine peace and stability in the area; and to resolve disputes by peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force,” Asean said in a press release sent to The Jakarta Post on Saturday night from Myanmarese capital Nay Pyi Taw.

The ministers met in Nay Pyi Taw on Saturday ahead of the 24th Asean Summit on Sunday.

In a surprise move, China moved on May 2 its biggest drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 (HD981) along with 27 guard ships to the south of Tri Ton island, which according to Vietnam falls within the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf of Vietnam or about 120 nautical miles from Vietnam’s Ly Son island.

China, however, claimed that the area where drilling rig parked was within China’s maritime territory and no other countries can interfere in that matter. Both Vietnam and China blamed each other for ramming their ships and using water cannons.

China’s newspaper Global Times carried on May 6 a statement that China should deliver Vietnam the “lesson it deserves”. With a similar rhetoric, Beijing invaded Vietnam in 1979 and seized Paracel Islands.

Indonesia worried about the escalating tensions may turn into conflict in South China Sea, which is a major shipping way and rich in hydrocarbon reserves as well as fisheries, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Moeldoko wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal.

During the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa called for the early conclusion of a legally binding code of conduct to prevent and manage the conflict in South China Sea.

The Asean ministers clearly emphasized the importance of “maintaining peace and stbility, maritime security, freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea”.

The SCS — known in China as the South Sea, in Vietnam as the East Sea and in the Philippines as the West Philippines Sea — has four main island groupings: the Paracel Islands (claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan but occupied by China), the Pratas Islands (claimed by China but occupied by Taiwan), the Spratly Islands (claimed in their entirety by Vietnam, China and Taiwan and claimed partially by Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei but partly occupied by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines) and the Macclesfield Bank/Scarborough Reef (both of which are claimed by China and Taiwan, while just Scarborough Reef is claimed by the Philippines and both are unoccupied).

 

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