The Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica has said it noted with interest the debate on the South China Sea and is calling on the international judicial or arbitral bodies to fully respect the provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including the Declarations made by the States Parties under Article 298 of the Convention.
“We also respect the right of all sovereign states, including states parties to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to seek settlement of the dispute by the means of their own choice,” the government said in a statement on Friday.
What is the South China Sea dispute and how did it come along?
According to the BBC, rival countries have been wrangling over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years. China has backed up its claims of 85 percent of the South China Sea by building islands and sending out naval patrols.
However, the move is not going down well with the US, which said that such moves restrict freedom of navigation. The US also said all sides in the matter have laid unlawful sovereignty claims but many see this aimed chiefly at China.
Countries taking overlapping claims in the South China Sea include China, Taiwan, Vietman, the Philippines and Malaysia. The dispute is over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and Paracels and the Spratlys – two largely uninhabited island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries, according to the BBC. The Paracels and the Spratlys may have reserves of natural resources around them.
In its statement on Friday the government of Dominica said, “We support the sovereign states directly concerned to resolve their relevant disputes through consultations and negotiations, on the basis of historical facts and international law and call on the states concerned to seek peaceful settlement of their territorial and maritime disputes through consultations and negotiations, and in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”
The government said it believes that “international community should play a constructive role in the peace and stability of the South China Sea by supporting the settlement of disputes by the disputing parties through negotiations in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS, and should not seek to exert a disruptive force in the disputes by attempting to internationalize, militarize or complicate the issues involved.”
Below are recent flashpoints in the South China Sea dispute (credit BBC):
-In 1974 the Chinese seized the Paracels from Vietnam, killing more than 70 Vietnamese troops.
-In 1988 the two sides clashed in the Spratlys, with Vietnam again coming off worse, losing about 60 sailors.
-In early 2012, China and the Philippines engaged in a lengthy maritime stand-off, accusing each other of intrusions in the Scarborough Shoal.
-In July 2012 China angered Vietnam and the Philippines when it formally created Sansha city, an administrative body with its headquarters in the Paracels which it says oversees Chinese territory in the South China Sea.
-Unverified claims that the Chinese navy sabotaged two Vietnamese exploration operations in late 2012 led to large anti-China protests on Vietnam’s streets.
-In January 2013, Manila said it was taking China to a UN tribunal under the auspices of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea, to challenge its claims.
-In May 2014, the introduction by China of a drilling rig into waters near the Paracel Islands led to multiple collisions between Vietnamese and Chinese ships.
-In April 2015, satellite images showed China building an airstrip on reclaimed land in the Spratlys.
-In October 2015, the US sailed a guided-missile destroyer within 12-nautical miles of the artificial islands – the first in a series of actions planned to assert freedom of navigation in the region. China warned that the US should “not act blindly or make trouble out of nothing”.