Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced democracies reiterated their call for a peaceful settlement on issues concerning the South China Sea.
In a joint communique dated April 10-11, the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States reiterated their commitment “to maintaining a rules-based maritime order based firmly on international law,” including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“We consider the July 12, 2016 award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal under the UNCLOS as a useful basis for further efforts to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea,” the joint communique read.
The G7 also urged all parties of disputed features in the South China Sea “to pursue demilitarization” and “to comply with their obligations under international law.”
“We reiterate our strong opposition to any unilateral actions which increase tensions, such as the threat or use of force, large-scale land reclamation, building of outposts, as well as their use for military purposes,” the group added.
It also encouraged dialogues based on international law towards early finalization of an effective Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
China claims most of the South China Sea based on its so-called “nine-dash line” but in July 2016, the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague ruled that China’s claim of sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.
It also ruled that China violated the UNCLOS when it built artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China, however, refused to acknowledge the ruling, maintaining its claim over the disputed areas.
Asked if the Philippines will raise the ruling during the upcoming meeting between the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said the country will raise it “at the proper time.”
“We cannot really commit to any particular date but it will be raised at the proper time and definitely going into negotiations on the framework and eventually the Code of Conduct (in the South China Sea),” Bolivar said.
He added, “The primary consideration of the delegation of the Philippines is the national interest.”
On Wednesday, April 19, Bolivar confirmed that Acting Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and his ASEAN counterparts will meet with Tillerson in Washington next month.
“Lahat po ng (All) ASEAN foreign ministers will meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The meeting is confirmed,” Bolivar said.
Details of the meeting, however, has yet to be finalized, according to him. “Inaayos pa po ‘yung (We are still fixing the) agenda…. exact timing nung (of the) meeting but it’s sometime in early May.”