South China Sea disputes should be resolved
Ahmad Alfatah Mugdho || risingbd.com
Ahmad Alfatah Mugdho
The South China Sea is one of the busiest waterways of the entire world which has been the centre of a dispute for a long among the key players of world politics. The unending and overlapping claims by some significant Asian countries like China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei have remained unresolved for decades.
The United States of America have a wide range of security commitments in East Asia and this waterway is a salient trade route in the global supply chain which has been regularly used by American companies. These clearly denote the stake of The United States of America in the South China Sea.
China has been trying to establish its sole hegemonic domination over the South China Sea and China’s claim has been very aggressive right from the beginning. This issue has created some serious tension between the United States of America and China. The USA recently even stated that the claim of China over the South China Sea is completely unlawful.
The regional organization like ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) also said that this long-standing dispute should be arbitrated on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which is an official and an international agreement that deals with the rights and responsibilities of nations regarding their use of the world’s oceans, management of the marine natural resources, dealing with the seabed resources as well as the minerals and setting up the guidelines for trade and commerce via international waterways.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, China, Taiwan and Malaysia claim several overlapping territorial domination over land features in the sea and their claims are mainly based on various historical and geographical accounts.
China, the prime actor, demands more than 80 percent of the waterway regarding the Nine-Dash Line and this Nine-Dash Line circumscribe near about 2000 kilometres that also reaches near the bordering area of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Vietnam claims hegemony over the Spratly Islands as well as the Paracel Islands. Malaysia and Brunei have also claimed their sovereignty over the southern parts of the South China Sea and they have some stake in the Spratly Islands as well. The Philippines claims have been also noticeable as they claim over their domination on the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly archipelago.
UNCLOS was concluded in 1982 and entered into effect in 1994 after 60 nations had ratified. All nations in the South China Sea (except Chinese Taipei) are party to the convention which regularize rights and responsibilities of coastal states in different areas of the sea.
There are some probable solutions that can be taken into consideration to resolve this unsolved and long-standing dispute which has the immense international significance.
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS): This Hamburg-based tribunal can be approached by state parties or non-state parties for settlement. However, both parties must have to agree to bring the case in front of the tribunal otherwise there will be no benefits that can bring the light of hope.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ): This court is the prime judicial court of the United Nations and it has a wide variety of jurisdictions apart from maritime disputes. All UN members are by default members of ICJ and have an obligation to comply that ensures the effectiveness of this organ. Actions can be taken by the United Nations Security Council because of the violation of the International Law on the basis of non-compliance.
Arbitral Tribunal: The Permanent Court of Arbitration is another effective and active organ that can bring justice to this overly talked topic of the South China Sea dispute. Even if one party doesn’t agree, the other party in a maritime dispute can still initiate such arbitration by the recognized acts.
Recently this court has given verdict in the Philippines vs China case though China did not pay any heed to this verdict but this definitely damaged their reputation in front of the world by not showing proper respect towards international law.
Role of Other Actor in Dispute Settlement (USA as a salient actor): The United States of America has the direct stake in the South China Sea and so they also want this unending dispute to come to an end as quickly as possible.
The USA has been practising military exercises since 2015 and this has reached a new level of joint naval exercise with its regional allies in 2019. This gives a clear message to China about the South China Sea dispute and the stake of the USA in this matter that they are directly involved.
The role of the USA is a vital one here and it can make China sit on the negotiation table to talk about the disputed issue areas along with neighbouring countries related to the South China Sea via Nine-Dash Line.
The South China Sea dispute needs to be solved because this waterway is a salient commercial thoroughfare that connects Asia with Africa and Europe which has the richest seabed full of innumerable amounts of natural resources. This sea contains major reserves of natural gas and oil and it is full of fishery stocks which can be the key source of food and nutrition for millions of people.
The abundance of natural resources and its geography have aggrandized the significance of the South China Sea to the next level. The dispute should come to an end because it will enhance the strength and ensure more stability of world trade as 50 percent of the world trade is done through the straits connected to this South China Sea.
Ahmad Alfatah Mugdho is currently studying International Relations at the University of Dhaka