‘Peaceful means’ preferred to address overlapping South China Sea claims

Overlapping claims of South China Sea. — picture from sourced from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia

KOTA SAMARAHAN: Malaysia is engaged with a myriad of issues at the regional and international level, among which are the overlapping claims over some areas of the South China Sea for which Malaysia is among the claimants.

It is known that the South China Sea is important for the region and beyond especially when its sea lanes are critical for international trade.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said this issue now occupies the world’s attention and Malaysia believes it is a complex, multi-faceted and highly sensitive issue.

“Any development that has the potential to undermine peace, security and stability will raise concerns and would naturally attract wide attention, and therefore, should be addressed peacefully and in a proactive, positive and constructive manner.

“Therefore, overlapping claims in the South China Sea should be addressed through peaceful means and in accordance with the relevant principles of international law, notably the principles as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982),” Anifah said when addressing the ‘Issues and Challenges in Managing Malaysia’s Foreign Relations’ dialogue session at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) yesterday.

He added that Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam and China have laid claim to maritime areas and features in the South China Sea, which overlap with Malaysia’s claims off the coast of Sabah and Sarawak.

China’s claim in the South China Sea is outlined by a unilaterally drawn “nine-dash line” that includes almost the entirety of Malaysia’s maritime areas off the coast of Sabah and Sarawak.

He said Malaysia does not recognize China’s claims as outlined by the nine-dash line because it is inconsistent with international law including the UNCLOS.

“Despite the overlapping claims, Malaysia reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight over the South China Sea.

Malaysia emphasised the need for all parties to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea or DOC in its entirety: to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence; exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities; to not to resort to threat or use of force; and for the parties concerned to resolve their differences and disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international law including UNCLOS 1982.

Anifah also said Malaysia is urging for the consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) to be intensified, to ensure the expeditious establishment of an effective COC.