Philippines relent in South China Sea conflict

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Yongxing_Island
Yongxing island in the South China Sea, claimed by both China and Vietnam, but currently developed as “southernmost territory” by the former.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on July 25 released a softened joint statement regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea after the Philippines dropped a request to mention a landmark legal ruling by a UN-backed arbitration court on the issue, backing down after Cambodia blocked any reference to the ruling at an ASEAN meeting in Vientiane, Laos, a day earlier.

The ruling said that China has no legal basis to claim almost 90 per cent of the South China Sea as its territory, but China rejected the decree by a court in The Hague, calling it a “farce” and “not legally binding.”

The Philippines at first wanted the ruling and a call to respect international maritime law to feature in the communique. However, after Cambodia, allegedly under pressure from China, through its objection caused a deadlock in the negotiations, Manila dropped its demands.

The communique referred instead to the need to find peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations’ law of the sea, to which the court ruling referred. The disputed maritime area is a strategic seaway that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year.

In hindsight, observers remarked that the deadlock highlighted the ineffectiveness of ASEAN as an institution and regional grouping, whose motto, after all, is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.” It also shows China’s powerful standing in the region and its increasing clout over neighbouring countries.

As opposed to the Philippines and Vietnam, and also Malaysia and Brunei which are locked in separate disputes with Beijing over contested rocks and reefs, Cambodia has no claim in the South China Sea and relies heavily on China for trade and investment. In 2012, a joint communiqué on the dispute was similarly blocked by Cambodia, and other members such as Laos and Malaysia are perceived as weak on the South China Sea issue due to Chinese pressure.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yongxing island in the South China Sea, claimed by both China and Vietnam, but currently developed as “southernmost territory” by the former.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on July 25 released a softened joint statement regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea after the Philippines dropped a request to mention a landmark legal ruling by a UN-backed arbitration court on the issue, backing down after Cambodia blocked any reference to the ruling at an ASEAN meeting in Vientiane, Laos, a day earlier.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yongxing_Island
Yongxing island in the South China Sea, claimed by both China and Vietnam, but currently developed as “southernmost territory” by the former.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on July 25 released a softened joint statement regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea after the Philippines dropped a request to mention a landmark legal ruling by a UN-backed arbitration court on the issue, backing down after Cambodia blocked any reference to the ruling at an ASEAN meeting in Vientiane, Laos, a day earlier.

The ruling said that China has no legal basis to claim almost 90 per cent of the South China Sea as its territory, but China rejected the decree by a court in The Hague, calling it a “farce” and “not legally binding.”

The Philippines at first wanted the ruling and a call to respect international maritime law to feature in the communique. However, after Cambodia, allegedly under pressure from China, through its objection caused a deadlock in the negotiations, Manila dropped its demands.

The communique referred instead to the need to find peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations’ law of the sea, to which the court ruling referred. The disputed maritime area is a strategic seaway that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year.

In hindsight, observers remarked that the deadlock highlighted the ineffectiveness of ASEAN as an institution and regional grouping, whose motto, after all, is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.” It also shows China’s powerful standing in the region and its increasing clout over neighbouring countries.

As opposed to the Philippines and Vietnam, and also Malaysia and Brunei which are locked in separate disputes with Beijing over contested rocks and reefs, Cambodia has no claim in the South China Sea and relies heavily on China for trade and investment. In 2012, a joint communiqué on the dispute was similarly blocked by Cambodia, and other members such as Laos and Malaysia are perceived as weak on the South China Sea issue due to Chinese pressure.

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