Malaysia, one of the four ASEAN claimants to the South China Sea, has called for disputes over the waterway to be resolved by diplomatic and legal processes after an international arbitration panel dismissed China’s claim to some 90 percent of the sea.
“Malaysia believes that all relevant parties can peacefully resolve disputes by full respect for diplomatic and legal processes; and relevant international law and 1982 UNCLOS,” the foreign ministry said in a statement issued late on Tuesday, hours after the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague ruled in the Philippine’s favor on the country’s challenge of China’s claim.
UNCLOS, short for United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is an international law signed by 121 states including China and the Philippines.
China lays claim to most of the South China Sea with a “nine-dash line” on its maps, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have overlapping claims.
Tensions between China and the Philippines have risen since Beijing seized control of the Scarborough Shoal, which lies only 350 km from the Philippines, in 2012. China has also undertaken major land reclamation work on disputed islands and reefs in the sea to shore up its territorial claims.
Manila took its case against China to the PCA in 2013, saying it had exhausted all diplomatic negotiation channels.
Malaysia, which has been building closer ties with China in recent years, called for “the full and effective implementation” of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by ASEAN and China 2002, and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) between China and ASEAN countries, the foreign ministry said in its statement on Tuesday.
“Malaysia cherishes peace and stability of the South China Sea and believes that China and all relevant parties can find constructive ways to develop healthy dialogues, negotiations and consultations while upholding the supremacy of the rule of law for the peace, safety and security for the region,” the statement said.