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The South China Sea: UNCLOS and State Practice

2014-11-28 11:12:56       source:NISCSS

From 24-25 October 2013, the international conference entitled "The South China Sea: UNCLOS and State Practice" was held in Haikou City.This two-day conference was co-organized by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies and the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies of Nanjing University.The participants conducted profound and pragmatic discussions on various subjects,including "Basic Concepts: Baselines,Rocks and Islands," "Extended Continental Shelf Claims: Actual And Potential,""Historic Title And Historic Rights and their Application to the South China Sea," "Marine Scientific Research, Hydrographic Surveys and Military Surveys,""Navigational Regimes,"and"Dispute Settlement." Present at the conference were more than 80 think-tank scholars and government officials from over twenty countries, regions and international organizations, including China, the United States, Australia, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Sweden, the UK, Italy and Chinese Taiwan and Hong Kong. Some internationally famous scholars and experts on the international law, including judges of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and members of the United Nations International Law Commission, also attended and addressed the conference. Vice Governor Wang Lu of the People's Government of Hainan Province attended and addressed the opening ceremony. As he remarked, a proper solution to the South China Sea issue is highly pertinent to the island's long-term socioeconomic development because Hainan Province is encompassed by the South China Sea and the South China Sea issue is of special concern to Hainan Province. He said that Hainan, along with the rest of the China, will continue to promote friendly exchanges and cooperation, enhancing mutual confidence and understanding with southeast Asian countries and the rest of the world.He gave a sincere appeal for us to join hands to promote practical cooperation and bring prosperity to all the people living around the South China Sea.He also hoped that all the participating scholars and experts would seek out useful ideas and ways to promote cooperation, maintain the long-term stability in the South China Sea issue and contribute wisdom and power to regional prosperity and development. As a representative of the relevant leader of China's Foreign Ministry, Deputy Director-General Yi Xianliang of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of China's Foreign Ministry delivered a speech. He said that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),opened for signature in 1982, is a landmark event amid human efforts to peacefully exploit oceans and establish a just and fair maritime order.The UNCLOS has also been universally supported and embraced by China and other members of the international community and has become the basic legal basis for marine activities. China has always been a constructive force in defending peace and stability in the South China Sea. China has always advocated that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law. Neither could be neglected. China is ready to work with the countries concerned in accordance with widely recognized international law and modern law of the sea, including the basic principles and legal systems established by the 1982 UNCLOS, in a bid to properly resolve the South China Sea dispute through peaceful negotiation and to build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship,and cooperation. President Wu Shicun of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies pointed out in the keynote speech that the UNCLOS has played a critical role in promoting exchanges and cooperation at sea among coastal states and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. However,due to the constraint of ideological differences, economic disparities, cultural gaps and cognitive divergences among the parties to the dispute, we still have a long way to go to reach a consensus on the application of the UNCLOS to the South China Sea. There is a lot of ambiguity , thus creating leeway for countries to interpret and apply it. In view of the South China Sea's strategic position and marine resource endowments, coupled with the complexity and sensitivity of the South China Sea disputes, the UNCLOS will inevitably bring direct and indirect significant impact to the South China Sea issue. Currently, it is imperative that relevant parties should respect and abide by the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea(DOC),actively implement the DOC, seriously carry out direct negotiations between the parties to the dispute,advance cooperation in the south China sea, facilitate the consultations on Code of Conduct in the South China Sea(COC) and make new contributions to implementing the UNCLOS in the South China Sea.Former ITLOS judge Tullio Treves made the keynote speech entitled A Global Overview of State Practice in Implementing UNCLOS. This high-level and influential conference also arranged a series of exchanges for think-tank scholars. The participants generally agreed that, in view of the profound changes in the current situation in the South China Sea, discussing and summarizing the experiences and lessons in the practice of implementing the UNCLOS in the South China Sea region over the past years has important practical significance and theoretical value. It is believed that the success of this conference will play a unique and active role in stabilizing the South China sea, promoting cooperation and enhancing mutual trust.