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International seminar on South China Sea in Russia

The major role of social organisations in ensuring peace, security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

The International Fund-The Way for Peace and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) recently organised an international seminar to seek peaceful resolutions to the South China Sea issue.

Taking part in the seminar were political research scholars, jurists and experts on maritime law from Russia, the US, the Philippines, Japan, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Chinese delegates were invited but did not show up for personal reasons.

Spread over two sessions on June 27, 2019, the seminar heard 11 reports on issues such as the latest developments in the historic conflicts in the South China Sea; the history of the conflicts in the South China Sea – the challenges and dangers; China’s policies and actions in the South China Sea; Seeking an effective solution to the conflicts in the South China Sea; Japan’s viewpoint for assurance of freedom of international aviation and navigation as well as the marine ecologyin the South China Sea; and fisheries co-operation in the South China Sea, etc.

The reports clearly stated the historical and current overviews of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and the viewpoints of the countries involved, especially to emphasise suggestions for a peaceful solution to a territorial conflict that is important not only to Southeast Asia but also to the rest of the continent and the whole world.

The participants agreed that the militarisation of the South China Sea not only had an impact on the peace and security of the region, but also on international navigation and overflight freedoms and the ecology of the sea, and that the foreign policy of some countries stoke tensions and possibly make it more difficult to find a peaceful solution in the South China Sea. They suggested building an effective marine crisis management system, de-militarising occupied entities and promoting fishing cooperation.

The discussions at the seminar indicated that while a number of solutions have been proposed for settlement of the ongoing dispute such as revision of co-operation and development, the solutions for reinforcement of the trust, demilitarisation, etc, a final solution to the dispute has been elusive.

The solutions suggested include creation of a process to effectively manage the maritime crisis in the South China Sea, demilitarisation by the entities who have stationed troops in the South China Sea, increasing fisheries co-operation in the South China Sea through an organisation for regional fisheries management, enhancing the transparency of maritime military activities, and attempting all peaceful means to tackle disputes based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) and the arbitration ruling in 2016.

Mrs. Irina Umnova, director of the International Fund-The Way for Peace, said social organisations and experts played an important role in shaping a world of peace.

Tô Anh Tuấn, deputy director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam’s East Sea (South China Sea) Institute for Maritime Studies, spoke highly of the international seminar where he said Vietnam had the opportunity to send officials and exact information about the South China Sea situation to international friends.

Also highlighted was Vietnam’s stance in addressing the issue, which focuses on not using or threatening to use force; promoting dialogue and co-operation based on mutual respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty, and legitimate rights; utilising multilateral mechanisms like ASEAN to build trust and prevent disputes; and abiding by international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS, to resolve the disputes.

Concluding the conference, Ms Jeanne Ellen Mirer, president of the IADL, said for many years the association had called for peaceful settlement of the disputes in the South China Sea on the basis of international law, and it would continue to monitor the situation to ensure stability for peace and security in the region.

She called on all delegates at the seminar to report its outcomes to their governments for consideration and adoption as appropriate for each. The IADL would run them on them website and magazine of the workshop, she said.

Ms Mirer also emphasised that since the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea is in force, the parties need to soon end illegal construction of artificial islands and cease to deploy military equipment and carry out other actions for militarisation that escalate a stressful situation.

Ms Mirer said the parties involved should respect and observe the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC); as well as soon enforce a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS).

The COC needs to include the obligation of concerned parties to settle disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law, prohibiting the use of force or the threat of using force, she said.

The IADL would closely monitor the situation in the South China Sea to take timely action to contribute to stability and peace and security in the region.

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