JAPAN is hoping that the competing claims of several countries over the resource-rich South China Sea will be part of the agenda of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in November.
"We'd expect to discuss regional issues such as the South China Sea, [as well] as other regional cooperation, would be discussed in the Asean Related Leaders' Summit meeting," Takehiro Kano, minister and deputy chief of mission of the Japanese embassy, said.
The 31st Asean Summit and Related meetings will be graced by leaders of the 10-man regional bloc and their dialogue partners, including China.
Four of Asean member-states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam – lay claim to some parts of the contested waters, while
China and Taiwan claim most of the energy-rich sea.
During the 30th Asean conference, the regional bloc's leaders did not mention the arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines, as well as China's reported reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its case filed before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands when the court ruled that China has invalid claims to vast waters of South China Sea.
The Asean leaders, in a draft statement in April, initially raised "serious concerns" over China's "reclamation and militarization that may complicate the situation" among sea claimants. It was however removed from the final joint statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has expressed intent to bolster ties with his "friend" China, has maintained non-adversarial approach in resolving the maritime row.
On October 19, the President said the Asean member-states made the right decision to avoid "confrontational talk" with China, in connection with the territorial disputes.
"The South China Sea is one [problem] but we are not in a hurry. And as a matter of fact, what we did was really the correct step and to avoid a confrontational talk with almost all of the concerned parties, just ask for a limited time to solve the problem and sharing of resources, if it could be done," Duterte said.
Kano said Japan also shared the same view to respect rule of law and other international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), to settle spat concerning the South China Sea.
"We share the importance of abiding by the rule of law, including the international law, including the Unclos, and then the basic principle of the peaceful settlement of international disputes and so on," he said.
"I don't think that we are not in a position to advise but rather, as strategic partners showing the common values, such as those I mentioned, we would like to continue to discuss on those matters as well," he added. (SunStar Philippines)