World / Asia-Pacific

China-ASEAN relationship not to be affected by S. China Sea arbitration: Indonesian experts

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-06-15 16:31

JAKARTA - As an international tribunal in the Netherlands is expected to rule in a case brought by the Philippines against China on the South China Sea dispute, experts in Indonesia have called on retaining good relationship between ASEAN and China.

"(The dispute) should not become a problem of ASEAN as an organization," Connie Rahakundini, the president of Indonesian Institute for Maritime Studies (IIMS), told Xinhua recently.

Connie warns that the "ASEAN plus" mechanism is prone to be used as a forum to intervene and meddling of those who have interests in the South China Sea. "ASEAN becomes the one who is pulled in into this issue which it should not."

"ASEAN and China must find ways to keep their good relations amid this issue," she says, adding that the ten-country organization has already initiated a code of conduct which is believed to create a conducive situation among the claimants and restrain them from possible moves that may stall initiative to negotiate.

In 2013, the Philippines filed the South China Sea dispute case with the arbitration court in the Hague, instead of trying to solve the dispute through bilateral ways.

China has decided not to participate in the arbitration and reject whatever ruling it might be on the basis of the court's lacking jurisdiction in the case, especially when Manila's requests are in fact about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, which are subject to general international law, not the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Indonesian experts said the Philippines and China would eventually still have to come up with a solution through bilateral ways after the court's arbitration ruling.

"The decision of the international court is not binding. China can choose not to implement it. (However), China will need to propose a roadmap or take time on solving the dispute bilaterally," Ibrahim Yusuf, chairman of the Indonesian Council on World Affairs tells Xinhua.

Connie of IIMS warned that intervention from other parties would only worsen the dispute and might cost each nation unnecessary military actions, and eventually create a crisis in the area.

"The United States actually has nothing to do in South China Sea, moreover it does not ratify the UNCLOS. So it is not appropriate for the United States to meddle or, even worse, demonstrate military might there. The United States has to be wiser and fairer to see the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea," Connie said.

"This issue must be settled by claimant countries with the help of neutral party. Settling the dispute through dialogue and negotiation between them is the best solution," she said.

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