Report: No joint ASEAN statement over South China Sea ruling

The 10 members of the Association of South-East Asians Nations have abandonned attempts to agree a joint position on this week's ruling dismissing China's claims over the South China Sea, a media report said.

This indicates that the bloc has not rallied behind the Philippines' claim, supported by an international tribunal Tuesday, in the face of long-standing Chinese pressure over the territory issue.

"We gave up on issuing the ASEAN statement," an unidentified ASEAN source was quoted as saying by Japan's Kyodo News agency.

Laos, which holds ASEAN's rotating chair, informed the other members late Wednesday that there would be no joint statement "because no consensus could be reached," the source said.

The member nations had been discussing a possible joint statement since the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Tuesday upheld a case brought by the Philippines over the territory.

ASEAN is divided over how to approach China about its claims, which overlap with the claimed territory of its members Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.

China has said it will not negotiate with the bloc, only bilaterally with the members. Some members have also resisted joint negotiations or statements, including Cambodia.

Beijing in April said it had made a deal with Brunei, Cambodia and land-locked Laos that any territorial disputes should be handled between the parties concerned.

Singapore also distanced itself from the Philippines' proceedings, which were undertaken "without consultation with the rest of us," Foreign Minsitery Vivian Balakrishman told Parliament Monday.

After the verdict, the Foreign Ministry said Singapore "is not a claimant and we do not take sides on the competing territorial claims."

China dismissed the court's ruling as "null and void," saying it has no jurisdiction.

The South China Sea contains key shipping lanes and has estimated oil reserves of up to 30 billion tons and 20 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves, according to China's Ministry of Land and Resources.

But the tribunal ruled that the contested formations were mere reefs, not islands with a history of use by China, as Beijing has said.

In the case of the Spratly Islands, this means they cannot support China's claim to be part of its sovereign territory, and fall under the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile (370-kilometre) exclusive economic zone under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Last update: Thu, 14/07/2016 - 10:07
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