MANILA – China warned foreigners who operate vessels not to trespass into its ‘claimed’ waters or else face prosecution.
The Chinese Supreme People’s Court declared that trespassers caught despite past warnings or conviction could be jailed up to a year. This rule was released on Monday, August 1, and took effect on Tuesday, August 2.
The rule also applies to Chinese citizens and foreigners declared guilty of “serious” illegal activities such as unlicensed fishing or wildlife poaching.
A statement released by the court on Tuesday, August 2, said it issued two judicial interpretations to clarify China’s jurisdiction and enforcement in their “controlled” waters which include the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), internal seas, continental shelves, territorial seas, and contiguous zones.
“Judicial power is an important component of national sovereignty,” Reuters quoted the court.
“People’s courts will actively exercise jurisdiction over China’s territorial waters, support administrative departments to legally perform maritime management duties … and safeguard Chinese territorial sovereignty and maritime interests.”
However, Professor Fu Kuncheng, director of Xiamen University’s South China Sea Institute, told The Straits Times that it has “nothing to do with the tribunal ruling.”
The Hague ruled on July 12 that China’s historic claims over a large part of the South China Sea have no legal basis, favoring the Philippines.
China, however, refused to accept the ruling, saying the court had no jurisdiction over the issue.
Kuncheng said that the rule will serve largely to remove confusion among local governments by setting a national policy and standard.
China also has maritime disputes with other countries including Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia.
PH hopes COC will be implemented
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday, August 3 that the Philippines hopes a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea would soon be adopted by concerned parties.
“The Philippines wants to see the early adoption of the COC,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said, according to Inquirer.
“All parties need to work expeditiously towards the establishment of an effective code of conduct (COC), and undertake activities that are in good faith and consistent with international law with the aim of advancing, and not delaying, the process.”
Yasay’s speech was read by Undersecretary Enrique Manalo at the 2nd Manila Conference on the South China Sea.
A Declaration of Conduct (DOC) signed by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members and China in 2002 was supposed to result in a COC that “would further promote peace and stability in the region and agree to work, on the basis of consensus, towards the eventual attainment of this objective.”
COC has long been stalled, however, as reports state it is difficult to get consensus among the diverse ASEAN nations.
US and Singapore joint statement
United States President Barack Obama and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong released a joint statement on Tuesday, August 2, urging all concerned parties in the disputed South China Sea to avoid actions, like the militarization of outposts in the area, that would elevate tensions in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
“Beyond bilateral cooperation, the two countries have worked as close partners to build a rules-based economic and security order for the Asia-Pacific and to address challenges on the global stage, including economic prosperity, climate change, terrorism, transnational crime, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” the joint statement read.
With regard to the South China Sea, the two leaders “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining regional peace and stability and upholding freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.”
“They emphasized the importance of resolving disputes peacefully, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
They also expressed their support for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the expeditious conclusion of a COC in the area.
Lee made an official visit to the U.S. in celebration of the 50-year diplomatic relationship and at the same time, to enhance the bilateral strategic partnership between the two countries.