South China Sea issues must be resolved based on international law

File pix.

KUALA LUMPUR: Matters relating to the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully based on universally recognised principles of the international law, including the United Nations Convention on The Law of The Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

According to his tweet late Thursday, the matter was discussed in his phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the same day.

Hishammuddin said the South China Sea must remain a sea of peace and trade.

Meanwhile, the US Department of State’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown, in a statement on its website, said Pompeo and Hishammuddin also discussed the two countries’ shared respect for international law and the rules-based maritime order in the South China Sea.

“Productive call today (Thursday) with Malaysian Foreign Minister @HishammuddinH2O today (Thursday) to discuss our shared interests in the South China Sea. Our U.S.-Malaysia Comprehensive Partnership is vital in helping ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pompeo tweeted.

Hishammuddin in Parliament Wednesday said that Malaysia should not be caught in the geopolitics of the superpowers and efforts must be made to avoid any unwanted incidents in the waters of South China Sea, including military clashes by any party.

Malaysia, he said, has always been committed to resolving the South China Sea issue constructively via appropriate diplomatic forums and channels.

Malaysia just last month maintains its position that all parties must work together to ensure peace, security and stability as well as continue to play an active role in ensuring that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace and trade.

On July 13, Pompeo, in a statement, said Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.

“Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with “might makes right”,” Pompeo had said.

In response to that, the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia on July 20 said China is always committed to the dual-track approach in the South China Sea issue and upholding the principle that all countries are equal in seeking to resolve the disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultation with all countries concerned.

The spokesperson at the embassy had said that China confines its oil and gas development and fishing activities in the South China Sea strictly within the waters under China’s jurisdiction, in accordance with relevant international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and China’s domestic legislations.

Malaysia Auditor-General’s Report 2018 revealed that Chinese Coast Guard vessels were detected to have encroached into Malaysia’s waters 89 times from 2016 to 2019 and their presence had been identified to be related to claims over the South China Sea, especially the Beting Patinggi Ali area (BPA).

“Five diplomatic protest notes have been issued to China for trespassing into Malaysian waters following 29 reports lodged by the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) from 2018 to 2019,” the report added.