Southeast Asia, China adopt framework for crafting code on South China Sea

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Foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea. But critic seen it as tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.

What is the reason for dispute ?

  • The region hold a wealth of untapped oil and gas reserves and besides roughly more than $3 billion of ship-borne trade passes every year.
  • China claims 90% of the South China Sea.
  • Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also contest China’s claims to islands and reef systems closer to their territory than China.
  • China says it follows a historical precedent set by the nine-dash line that it drew in 1947 following the surrender of Japan.
  • The line has been included in subsequent maps issued by government.

What is the current framework seeks for ?

  • Framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea.
  • This was ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven manmade islands in disputed waters, three of which are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.
  • The framework is only an outline for how the code will be established.
  • Some nations wanting mention of a dispute resolution mechanism and respecting “sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction”. Sovereign rights cover entitlements to fish and extraction of natural resources.
  • Several ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have said they still favour making the code legally binding, that China is unlikely to agree to.

How the critic seen the framework ?

  • The failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding and enforceable or have a dispute resolution mechanism, raises doubts about how effective the pact will be.
  • China’s sudden interest in the code after 15 years of delays is to drag out the negotiating process to buy time to complete its strategic objectives in the South China Sea, through which more than $3 billion of ship-borne trade passes annually.

Source : Economic Times

GS II : Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

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