US, Japan, Australia call on PH, China to abide by arbitral tribunal's award on South China Sea
The United States, Japan and Australia have urged China and the Philippines to follow the ruling of an arbitral tribunal on their territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
This was contained in the Australia-Japan-US Trilateral Strategic Dialogue joint statement they issued on Monday in Manila, host of the ongoing ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings.
"The Ministers called on China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal's 2016 Award in the Philippines-China arbitration, as it is final and legally binding on both parties," said the joint statement of Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Japan Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration made an award in July 2016 to the Philippines by invalidating China's sovereign claim over almost the entire South China Sea.
Australia, Japan and US Ministers expressed "serious concerns" over maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
"The Ministers voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions. In this regard, the Ministers urged SCS claimants to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarization of disputed features, and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the maritime environment in areas pending delimitation," they said.
They said the claimants in the South China Sea should make and clarify their maritime claims in accordance with the international law of the sea as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to resolve disputes peacefully in accordance with international law.
China has refused to abide by the PCA ruling, while the Philippines, under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, has decided to shelve in the meantime the arbitral award.
Duterte has said he wants to have a "soft-landing" with the Philippine relations with China.
In a press conference later in the day, Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said he did not see any disagreement between the Philippine position and that of the joint statement of the three foreign ministers regarding the adherence on the decision of the arbitral tribunal.
"The President (Rodrigo Duterte) has stated in many occasions that the Philippines will respect the arbitral ruling and will raise it with the relevant sides at the proper time," he said.
The Ministers also urged ASEAN member states and China "to fully and effectively" implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conductof Parties in the SCS.
While they acknowledged the adoption of a framework of COC for the SCS, the Ministers urged the Southeast Asian countries and China to ensure that the COC be finalized in "a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law."
They also expressed strong opposition to any "coercive or unilateral actions" that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East China Sea and will remain in close communication about developments in the area.
Japan and China have also their territorial disputes in East China Sea. Celerina Monte/DMS