MANILA, Philippines - Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations have issued a joint communiqué calling for the implementation of a ruling by a UN-backed arbitral court invalidating China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.
In the communiqué, the G7 ministers also reiterated their strong opposition to the building of new military outposts in disputed waters as well as the use of threat or force in settling maritime disputes.
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States comprise the G7.
“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 communiqué read, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The ruling, issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, also reaffirmed the Philippines’ entitlements in the West Philippine Sea. Beijing has refused to honor the ruling.
In the communiqué, the G7 ministers reiterated their commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order based firmly on international law, specifically UNCLOS.
They stressed settlement of disputes should be through legal means and supported by confidence building measures.
The ministers have also expressed concern over the situation in the East and South China Seas.
“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,” they said,
They maintained their commitment to freedom of navigation, over-flight and other internationally lawful uses of the seas.
In the communiqué, the G7 ministers also encouraged dialogues based on international law in pursuit of an effective Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
“We call for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety,” they said. Beijing insists it has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, foreign affairs acting spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said Manila is hopeful that a framework of the COC for the South China Sea dispute would be completed during its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year.
Bolivar said the Philippines is upbeat about the prospects of a framework as there has been an “increasing level of trust and confidence” among ASEAN member-countries and China.
“We are more hopeful now than we were maybe a year or two years ago that we would have significant progress and there’s a commitment from ASEAN and China to complete the framework, in fact, by middle of this year,” Bolivar said in a press briefing yesterday at Malacañang.
“We hope that ASEAN and China will make more significant progress. There has been increasing level of trust and confidence among the parties. And we are very hopeful that we will complete the framework by 2017,” he added. – With Alexis Romero