ASEAN should include the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)’s verdict on the South China Sea and international law in the code of conduct being drawn up for the contentious maritime region, Vietnamese scholars and officials said.
The PCA favoured the Philippines over China in a judgement on July 12 last year. It ruled that Beijing has no historical right over the South China Sea in the disputed areas and had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone. It said China had interfered with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration by constructing artificial islands and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from operating in the zone.
China has long been at loggerheads with many Asean members, including the Philippines and Vietnam, over territory in the South China Sea.
While other members have tried to settle their conflicts within the region, the previous administration in Manila took its case to the PCA at the Hague.
However, there has been no implementation of the PCA verdict over the past year. Many countries in the region have continued activities in the contentious area, including the construction of artificial islands and military projects.
While the Philippines has called for the PCA ruling to be respected, the new administration under President Rodrigo Duterte has seemed to soften its stance towards China and did not mention the issue during an Asean summit in April.
Vietnam, which is not a party to the PCA verdict, called for the ruling to be respected and for a denial of China’s historical claim to the so-called Nine Dash Line, which is known among Vietnamese as “cow tongue lines”, according to an official at Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry. Hanoi deemed the construction of artificial islands as damaging to the marine environment, the official said.
Vietnamese scholar Dang Cong Ngu said the PCA decision had made Vietnam “ready for the future struggle”, adding that the country would push Asean to bolster the code of |conduct to “make sure that we go in the right direction”.
Ngu, who is a former chairman of Hoang Sa People’s Committee, urged Asean members to unite in the settlement of disputes, emphasising the importance of completing a binding code of conduct based on international law, including the PCA’s verdict.
Hoang Sa is the Vietnamese name for the Paracel Islands, over which Vietnam has a claim, but which remain occupied by the Chinese.
Asean is working with China on a framework for the code. Officials said that they could reach common ground and would unveil the content by early August when foreign ministers of the group gather for an annual meeting in the Philippines.