South China Sea dispute Current Affairs

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China, ASEAN Countries Agree on Framework for South China Sea Code of Conduct

China and the 10 member of the ASEAN grouping have agreed to a framework of a legally binding code of conduct aimed at preventing disputes in the strategic South China Sea. Though the draft of the framework has been finalised, no details about the text of the framework agreement has been released. Also, no date has been given on which the full code of conduct is set to be adopted by the parties. However, all the parties have agreed to continue to constructively advance the negotiations and work towards the early conclusion of the code of conduct.

Background

China and the ASEAN members had committed to sign a code of conduct around 15 years ago. But the pace of the negotiations was slow as China claimed the South China in its entirety. ASEAN members like Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also maintain claims in the South China Sea. In the absence of the code of conduct, each country followed a separate document called the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which has a provision committing parties to explore ways to build trust and confidence based on the principles of equality and mutual respect. Last year, China was enraged by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague, the Netherlands, which in its ruling has rejected China’s claims to economic rights across large swathes of South China Sea in a case brought by the Philippines.

10 ASEAN Members: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

South China Sea

South China Sea is part of Pacific Ocean spreading an area of some 35 lakh square km with eight littoral countries / territories viz. China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. It is strategically located in the international shipping route that sees the passage of world’s half of the merchant ships. The sea is rich in energy reserves including petroleum, mineral and fishing resources. It is made of some 200 tiny islands, coral reefs, shoals, sandbanks etc. grouped into three archipelagos of Spratlys, Paracels and Pratas. The Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal are also part of South China Sea. Several countries have made competing territorial claims over the South China Sea. Such disputes have been regarded as Asia’s most potentially dangerous point of conflict.

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China to set up International Maritime Judicial Centre

China’s Supreme Court has decided to set up its own International Maritime Judicial Centre (IMJC) to handle territorial disputes and protect its sea rights.

It was announced by China’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Zhou Qiang at the annual meeting of the national legislature National People’s Congress (NPC).

This move will help China to bolster its claims in the disputed South and East China seas and also help it become a maritime power.

Background

  • Presently China is locked in disputes with its neighbours over claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.
  • The tensions have risen recently over China’s aggressive land reclamation continues to build artificial islands, airport runways and facilities on disputed reefs.
  • Usually International maritime disputes between countries are usually brought before the United Nation’s International Court of Justice (ICJ).
  • Earlier Philippines had filed an arbitration case against China over their competing claims in the South China Sea. But China has refused to participate.
For more details: South China Sea Dispute

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India and Vietnam sign 7 strategic pacts

President Pranab Mukherjee is on a four-day state visit to Vietnam where he met his counterpart Truong Tan Sang. The two leaders signed 7 pacts and reaffirmed their stances on the freedom of navigation in the disputed waters of South China Sea. Mr. Mukherjee asked all the concerned parties to exercise restrain and not impede the movement across the said region. The stance can be a source of concern for China who has been claiming territorial sovereignty over the high seas.

Both the nations have decided to take the relation to a new high and decided to focus on political, defence and security cooperation, economic cooperation, science and technology, culture and people-to-people links, technical cooperation and multilateral and regional cooperation. As part of the joint statement, the two sides also agreed to cooperate for peace, stability, growth and prosperity in the region. In case of South China Sea dispute they stated that all parties should abide by international commitments and principles set by international law including the UNCLOS-1982. The two sides urged for collective commitment of the concerned parties to abide by and implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and to work to agree for the adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea based on mutual agreement.
There were 7 pacts signed including the one between ONGC and Vietnam Oil, extending a dollar credit line between Vietnam and EXIM Bank of India, agreement on co-operation and mutual assistance in customs matters, MoU on animal health, MoU on setting up of Pangasius breeding and farming in India, MoU on operating and jointly promoting direct air services between Vietnam Airlines and domestic Indian air carrier Jet Airways and MoU on cooperation in youth affairs and skill development.

President Mukherjee was given a guard of honor upon his arrival at the Presidential palace and also planted a sapling of the Holy Bodhi Tree along with his Vietnamese counterpart.

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