MANILA, Philippines — The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies reiterated its opposition to the militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.
The ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States maintained their commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order based 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 G7 joint communique read.
The UN-backed arbitral tribunal based in the Hague, Netherlands had ruled that China's nine-dash line claim does not have a legal basis and that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS for building artificial islands in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
Beijing, however, refused to honor the ruling of the arbitral tribunal and insisted that they have indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.
The Philippines, under the Duterte administration, decided to set aside the ruling in settling the maritime dispute.
The G7 ministers urged all parties involved in the South China Sea dispute to stop the militarization in the region.
"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 and urge all parties to pursue demilitarization of disputed features and to comply with their obligations under international law," the G7 ministers said.
This statement follows reports that Beijing is nearly finished with its construction of military facilities in three islands in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. These facilities will allow Beijing to deploy military assets in the region at any time.
The G7 foreign ministers called for the finalization of a Code of Conduct in the South Chin Sea (COC) and the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, China is set to host a meeting with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss the framework of the COC for claimants in the South China Sea dispute.
"The hope (is) that by the time we get to the meeting in May, senior officials in the ASEAN-China DOC (declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea) may be able to have at least a preliminary agreement on the framework," acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said.