The statement cautions against the internationalization of the disputes
By Ankit Panda, www.thediplomat.com
Two days ago, in Moscow, the foreign ministers of India, Russia, and China released a joint communique outlining areas of trilateral agreement between the three countries. As I discussed in The Diplomat, the three countries have met annually since 2002 to discuss issues of regional and global importance. While the trilateral hasn’t addressed the issue in the past, this year, the three foreign ministers included the South China Sea disputes in their joint communique. Specifically, the portion of the communique on the maritime disputes there said the following:
Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned. In this regard the Ministers called for full respect of all provisions of UNCLOS, as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC.
The statement is notable as the first mention of the South China Sea disputes in a Russia-India-China trilateral statement. Last year, at their 13th annual meeting, the foreign ministers omitted any mention of the disputes, despite the fact that China’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly Islands was already beginning to raise red flags in the international press. This year, however, with a decision looming at at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the case Philippines v. China —a decision that is likely to not go in China’s favor by most counts—Beijing is looking to shore up its position on the disputes.