Beijing insists international law does not apply to the East and South China seas. Only its own.
Asian countries push back on China demand
By Jamie Seidel
12 Feb, 2023 04:52 AM 7 mins to read
Jakarta is calling Beijing’s bluff.
Indonesia has moved to revive regional talks on China’s long-demanded “code of conduct” for the South China Sea. Will it force the new, “loveable” Xi Jinping to reveal his true colours?
Beijing is demanding that Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan surrender their territorial rights to the South China Sea. But all have rejected its claim of “historical” ownership of the 3.5 million square kilometre waterway.
Now escalating military pressure from China is forcing the traditionally non-aligned South East Asian states to seek mutual and international support.
“The situation in the South China Sea is far from stable,” Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) analyst Greg Poling says.
“Chinese vessels engaged in dangerous and escalatory encounters with those of other states regularly throughout 2022.”
Now Jakarta has put Beijing in a position where it must either put up or shut up.
A two-day meeting of the powerful Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc produced a statement stating China’s artificial island fortresses and aggressive behaviour at sea, “have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.
But the ASEAN ministers have agreed to Beijing’s demands to restart talks on a decades-old proposal for a mutual “code of conduct”.
On the surface, Beijing is pleased.
“This helps China and ASEAN members to enhance trust, build consensus, and achieve the goal of managing crises, preventing conflicts and deepening practical maritime co-operation through the establishment of rules and regulations at an early date,” Ding Duo of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies says.
The regional envoys, however, aren’t playing by Beijing’s rules.
ASEAN has invoked “the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”.
But Beijing insists international law does not apply to the East and South China seas. Only its own.
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