Despite International Ruling, Vanuatu Support Of China In South China Sea Dispute Unchanged

Government ‘respects China’s 2006 declaration’ calls for open dialogue between all parties

By Royson Willie

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 15, 2016) – The Government of Vanuatu has not changed its stand on the South China Sea dispute following an international tribunal’s ruling this week in The Hague that China’s claims to the resource-rich and strategically vital South China Sea had no legal basis.

On Tuesday this week the UN-backed tribunal, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, ruled in favour of Philippines and that China has no historic rights to the area.

Two months ago the Vanuatu Government under Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, made its stand known on the issue.

It said it fully understands and supports china’s proposition on the issue of South China Sea and called on parties directly concerned to stay committed to open friendly dialogue and peaceful settlement of disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests around the area.

The Government had said Vanuatu respects China’s 2006 declaration in light of Article 298 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the south sea (UNCLOS).

As such any prior consent of the parties to the dispute must be sought before proceeding with any third party settlement, the prime minister said.

“Vanuatu also maintains the principle that relevant claims on any territorial and maritime rights and interests must be based on the historical and cultural facts.

“Any arbitrary imposition of unilateral measures including instituting legal proceedings against other parties in the dispute run contrary to the principle of mutual understanding, mutual dialogue and friendly consultation as enshrined in the principles of UNCLOS,” the statement prime minister Salwai said.

Meanwhile China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Chinese Embassy in Vanuatu, has solemnly declared that the award by the international tribunal is null and void and has no binding force.

“On 22 January 2013, the then government of the Republic of the Philippines unilaterally initiated arbitration on the relevant disputes in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines. On 19 February 2013, the Chinese government solemnly declared that it neither accepts nor participates in that arbitration and has since repeatedly reiterated that position.

“On 7 December 2014, the Chinese government released the Position Paper of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines, pointing out that the Philippines’ initiation of arbitration breaches the agreement between the two states, violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and goes against the general practice of international arbitration, and that the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction.

“On 29 October 2015, the Arbitral Tribunal rendered an award on jurisdiction and admissibility.

“The Chinese government immediately stated that the award is null and void and has no binding force. China’s positions are clear and consistent.

“The Chinese government reiterates that, regarding territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China.

“The Chinese government will continue to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, including the principles of respecting state sovereignty and territorial integrity and peaceful settlement of disputes, and continue to work with states directly concerned to resolve the relevant disputes in the South China Sea through negotiations and consultations on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law, so as to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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