AFRICAN COUNTRIES BACK CHINA’S APPROACH TO SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE

Many African countries have recently voiced their support for China over the Philippine-initiated arbitration on the South China Sea dispute, calling for parties involved to resolve disputes through friendly negotiations and consultations.

The Philippines filed a compulsory arbitration against China at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2013.

China maintains that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case, which is in essence about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation. China, therefore, has made it clear it will not accept or get involved in those proceedings.

As the PCA is about to announce its decision on Tuesday, African governments and officials on different occasions called for the international community to respect efforts made by China and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region in safeguarding peace and stability.

The Kenyan Foreign Ministry said the government believed that any disputes over the South China Sea should be peacefully resolved through consultations and negotiations in accordance with bilateral agreements and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an agreement signed by China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002.

The Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry made a similar statement, saying: “This is the only way in which a resolution can be found to this problem, which affects a number of countries in the region.”

African nations believe that territorial issues are beyond the scope of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as China has excluded maritime delimitation from compulsory arbitration in a declaration in 2006 in accordance with Article 298 of UNCLOS.

The Kenyan government said it respects China’s declaration of “optional exception in light of Article 298 of UNCLOS.”

In an interview with Xinhua, Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Samura Kamara emphasized the need for all parties to “exercise respect for the rights of each other as sovereign states and contracting states of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

He urged international judicial institutions or arbitral tribunals to fully respect declarations of optional exception made by each country under Article 298 of the UNCLOS.

He affirmed that Sierra Leone is behind China in looking forward to a “mutually respectful solution among the parties that are involved in the South China Sea.”

The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation said it has noted with concern the recent trend in the global arena to politicize the situation pertaining to the South China Sea.

“South Africa supports the position that the sovereign states that are directly concerned should resolve their relevant disputes through direct consultations and negotiations, on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law, as well as to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” it said in a statement.

“South Africa believes that the international community should support all efforts aimed at safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea,” it added.

Other African countries, including Angola, Malawi, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, Zambia, Mauritania, Cameroon, Ethiopia, have also voiced support for China’s position of dealing with the South China Sea disputes between the directly concerned parties through peaceful negotiations.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK