East Sea issues draw attention from Belgian experts

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A conference on the international law perspective on the East Sea came under the spotlight in an article carried by the Belgian Euro Press Image (EPI) portal on March 11.

Professor Erik Franck, a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) chaired the conference in Brussels, which brought together over 100 scholars, lawyers, researchers and former judges at international courts along with officials from the European Union and the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The discussion was focused on fishery, navigation, islands and archipelagos, and the tlement of international disputes.            

The article quoted PhD Friedrich Wieland, head of the legal section of the European Commission Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fishery, as saying the aquatic resources in the East Sea are being overexploited, causing negative effects on the environment. According to Wieland, one of the causes behind this problem is the lack of clear delimitation of sovereignty.       

To solve this problem, the involved parties should cooperate, avoid any unilateral action and respect international law, he said.    

Experts agreed that the so-called "nine-dash line" claim of China in 2009 lacks legal foundations and to date China has failed to produce any valid legal documents to prove its claim.           

They held that China's unilateral actions in the disputed areas such as constructing or changing the status quos on islands could threaten the navigation safety and security and regional stability, adding that the acts are not recognised by international law.           

Participating lawyers said when the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has yet been able to deal with the sovereignty disputes, diplomatic negotiations are the top priority, in which emphasis should be put on the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the building of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).       

They suggested ASEAN countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia need to study and continue invoking international law to clarify their opinions and request the involved parties to address the disputes in an equal manner and in line with international law.            

The East Sea is a top strategic issue for concerned Southeast Asian countries as well as China, the article said, concluding that the search for solutions to address the disputes has become increasingly important than ever before.-VNA

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