Thursday, July 14, 2016
Indonesia - RI calls for self-restraint and respect for int’l law
Indonesia, the largest member of ASEAN, urged on Tuesday all concerned parties to exercise self-restraint and refrain from taking any measures that could escalate tensions in Southeast Asia.
Without making a direct reference to the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling on the South China Sea (SCS), the government pointed to the importance of maintaining the commitments shared by all sides to uphold peace and act in accordance with the principles they agreed upon together.
“Indonesia once again calls on all parties to exercise self-restraint and to refrain from any action that could escalate tensions, as well as to protect the Southeast Asian region particularly from any military activity that could pose a threat to peace and stability and to respect international law, including UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] 1982,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the court issued its ruling.
Indonesia is not a claimant to the South China Sea. China recognizes Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty over the Natuna Islands. However, the Natunas and their surrounding waters are the part of Indonesia closest to the so-called “nine-dash line”, a demarcation unilaterally declared by China as the basis of its claim to most of the resource-rich SCS.
About 83,000 square meters of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the Natunas is included within the area demarcated by the nine-dash line.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visited the Natuna Islands and vowed the government would take all necessary measures to defend Indonesia’s sovereignty. The government plans to strengthen its military presence on the islands, but Jokowi is also committed to maintaining good relations with the world’s second-largest economy.
“Indonesia also calls on all parties to continue a shared commitment to upholding peace and to demonstrate the friendship and cooperation that has been nurtured over the years,” said the Foreign Ministry statement.
“Indonesia encourages all claimant states to continue peaceful negotiations over their overlapping claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea in accordance with international law,” it said.
International law expert Eka Sjarief said the government’s response to the award should be appreciated, as the PCA ruling will greatly benefit the rule of international law and the credibility of UNCLOS.
The ruling comes just weeks before ASEAN is set to host a series of meetings with its various partners – which includes everyone from China to the US — in Vientiane, Laos.
“In terms of substance, I think an agreement was already reached in the 2016 ASEAN Ministerial Retreat that all parties shall fully respect all legal and diplomatic processes,” said Eka, who heads the University of Padjadjaran’s international law alumni association.
“If ASEAN doesn’t end up issuing a statement, it should amount to nothing more than a procedural thing.”
For international relations expert Dafri Agussalim, not only did the ruling disapprove of China’s activities on the global stage, it also spelled progress for the dispute settlement process in one of the world’s most strategic maritime trade routes.
Now that there is a strong legal basis to pressure the East Asian giant, it is important for the international community, especially ASEAN, to sit together in unity and press China through diplomatic means, he said.
ASEAN’s unity and diplomatic pressures will be the key to achieve peaceful settlements for the SCS problems and Indonesia will be in a strategic position to lead the efforts, the Gadjah Mada University lecturer argued.
“It might take years, but diplomacy works the best in times like these. But ASEAN needs to carry out talks with China covertly to avoid humiliating it, as it might lead the country to be more aggressive in pursuing its interests in the waters,” Dafri said.
1. There is no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.
2. There is no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters.
3. None of the Spratly Islands are capable of generating extended maritime zones.
4. China has violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone.
5. China has caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems.
6. China’s recent large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands are incompatible with the obligations of a state during dispute-resolution proceedings.
Anggi M. Lubis and Tama Salim