Japan, US, Australia urge PH, China to abide by arbitral ruling
Japan, the United States, and Australia has issued a join statement calling on the need for the Philippines and China to abide by the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the South China Sea.
But the statement does not imply that the Philippines is not abiding by ruling, which invalidated China’s historic nine-dash line over the disputed waters.
Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono made this clarification at a press conference Monday night at the International Media Center at the Conrad Manila Hotel.
The Australia-Japan-United States Trilateral Strategic Dialogue Ministerial Joint Statement was issued after the three countries concluded its 7th Trilateral Strategic Dialogue Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Manila.
In the joint statement, the ministers from the three countries strongly opposed “unilateral actions” that could “alter the status quo and increase tensions” over the South China Sea, urging the claimants to stop “land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarization of disputed features, and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment.”
The ministers also underscored the importance of “upholding the rules-based order,” urging the Philippines and China “to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal’s 2016 Award in the Philippines-China arbitration, as it is final and legally binding on both parties.”
“The ministers underscored the importance of upholding the rules-based order, called on all states to respect freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the seas, and reiterated that the three countries will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” the joint statement read.
“That is the reason why we stated that the arbitral award should be abided by. We are not saying the Philippines is in violation or not in violation of the arbitral award,” Kono said.
“Going forward, this award decision will be the basis for the various award decision to come under the Unclos [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]. Thus, we’d like to see both countries firmly follow and abide by the arbitral award,” he added.
Kono said Japan cited the need for a “legally binding” code of conduct (COC) over the South China Sea that would guide actions to prevent escalating tensions over the disputed waters.
“We have agreed as quickly as possible the legally binding the Code of Conduct based upon international law should be adopted,” Kono said. “Japan has also stated that we support the freedom of navigation as done by the US.”
In the joint statement, the ministers of Japan, Australia, and the US urged China and Asean to “ensure that the COC be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”
With the Philippines’ warmer ties with China under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Asean chairman message this year was silent on China’s reclamation activities and militarization on the disputed waters.
Duterte had earlier vowed to “set aside” the Philippines’ favorable arbitration ruling over the West Philippine Sea dispute,.
Worried about North Korea
Kono also said Japan expressed worry over the nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile program of North Korea.
He added that Japan would want a strict implementation of the latest United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions against North Korea.
“I believe that there was almost a consensus among ministers that those resolutions must be firmly and solidly implemented. That is my impression,” Kono said.
The North Korean foreign ministry recently said the communist state would not stop developing its nuclear defense program, chiding the Asean’s moral ascendancy to rebuke the program, and blaming the United States for its hostilities toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
Pyongyang also warned it would aim its nuclear weapons even on allies helping the US in its military actions against the DPRK.
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