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ARF: Solutions of Territorial Disputes

By Soh Shu Heng, Channel NewsAsia

Published: 18 Mar 2019 - 09:00 PM

Many countries amongst Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) agrees to have minimum dispute, and should there be any disputes, they propose to solve it harmoniously, through either bilateral or multilateral means.

Many countries have different viewpoints regarding the settlement of the South China Sea territorial disputes, and some may not come into consensus regarding China claims on most of the South China Sea, which results in tension between these countries against China.

The ARF thus steps in to help these countries by providing resolutions to the problem, and some solutions include:

A new Code of Conduct(COC)

Bilateral talks

Multilateral talks

Previously there was a formal Declaration of the Conduct of Parties (DOC)signed in Cambodia, 4 November 2002, but it was not as effective as it seemed because it is not legally bounded and no one is to monitor on the terms agreed in the DOC so countries like China who was committed to the DOC did not implement the DOC like it should as not much positive movement has been taken by it.

Link on DOC agreement in 2002:

https://cil.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2002-Declaration-on-the-Conduct-of-Parties-in-the-South-China-Sea.pdf

In order to ensure that the new COC will not be as ineffective as the DOC, one big change will be that it shall be legally bounded. Although some countries worries over if sanctions and harsh punishments should be made on those countries who fail to compromise might turn into another dispute, most country still agree that it should be legally bounded in order to ensure that countries will be committed to this new COC. Although some sacrifices is bound to be made, many countries agree to this for the sake of good relationships amongst the countries and AESEAN to remain powerful. Most importantly, it is to resolve disputes such as the South China Sea dispute peacefully.

In addition, there are many countries involved in the South China Sea dispute that proposed multilateral talks with China even though China has intentionally avoided multilateral dialogues, preferring bilateral talks over it. Although China has claimed that the reason why it refuses multilateral talks was because it did not see the point of another third party to barge into a situation and make jurisdiction on the issue that it is not involved in, many other countries still fear that China has hidden agenda in preferring bilateral over multilateral dialogues. Some countries claim that China is being manipulative and might gave unreasonable conditions when bilateral dialogues are held due to China’s immense power and dominance as compared to the other smaller countries. However, countries such as Brunei approves of both bilateral and multilateral dialogues as both of them can reach a desirable outcome, which is resolving the dispute peacefully.

All in all, countries are working together in order to achieve good diplomatic relationships with one another, towards a safe and peaceful environment in this volatile world.

A disputed location in the South China Sea.

A disputed location in the South China Sea.