As the world commemorates the fifth anniversary of the Arbitral Tribunal ruling on the South China Sea, Canada has expressed its concern over China’s “escalatory and destabilizing actions” in South China and the East China Sea as it called on all parties to comply with the international court’s decision that soundly rejected Beijing’s excessive nine-dash line claim as without basis.
In a statement on Monday, the Global Affairs of Canada described the July 2016 Arbitral Award as a “significant milestone” and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea.
“It is imperative that all parties in the region demonstrate restraint and avoid taking action unilaterally, as this would exacerbate tensions and threaten regional stability,” the Canadian government said.
Canada cited, in particular, its concern in the South China Sea, including recent developments off the Philippine coast, and by the “militarization of disputed features and the use of naval, coast guard and maritime militia vessels to intimidate and threaten the ships of other states”.
In recent months, the Philippines filed a series of protests against China for the continued presence and swarming of hundreds of Chinese militia and fishing vessels in some features located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
“We call on all states, including China, to live up to previous commitments made in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea,” it said.
On the resumption of the negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between ASEAN member states and China, Canada called for transparency in the discussions and reiterated that the agreement “should not derogate from the rights that parties enjoy under international law or prejudice the rights of third parties”.
The government in Ottawa also expressed its support for lawful commerce, navigation and overflight rights, as well as the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of coastal states in the South China Sea, all in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
These principles, according to the Canadian government, are essential to a “secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”
“Canada is committed to defending and revitalizing an effective rules-based international order, including for the oceans and seas, and to the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law,” it added.
In January 2013, the Philippines instituted arbitral proceedings against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Called the South China Sea Arbitration, the proceeding tackled China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, the status of certain maritime features and the lawfulness of certain actions by China in the vast area that the Philippines alleged to be in violation of the convention.
On July 12, 2016, the UN-backed tribunal rendered a decision that is binding on the parties to the ruling.