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Dispute in the South China Sea; Retno Marsudi asks for a paradigm of peace


TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi pointed to the growing geopolitical tensions over the maritime territory, causing more challenges to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or Treaty on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to her, ASEAN always aims to resolve disputes as in the South China Seathrough non-military confrontation.

“UNCLOS is the key to achieving this goal. However, the effective approach requires a paradigm that encourages the peaceful resolution of disputes,” said Retno who joined virtually the opening of the ASEAN conference on 40 years of UNCLOS on Tuesday, November 29. 2022.

The South China Sea is a strategic area bordering Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and China. The area has become an overlapping jurisdiction between claimant states such as Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and China, making the potential for conflict in this region concerning.

Recently, China and the Philippines clashed in the region. The Philippines has accused a Chinese coast guard vessel of seizing rocket debris secured by the Philippines in the South China Sea. Beijing has denied this allegation.

The mutual accusations between Beijing and Manila took place during US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the Philippines, with the US also guaranteeing to help the Philippines militarily.

During his speech at the UNCLOS forum, Retno reflected on Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s statement that the area should be seen as a uniting factor and not a dividing one. He said international law must always be respected.

“The state must continue to abide by international law, including UNCLOS which must be the primary norm that shapes state behavior at the maritime border,” Retno said.

UNCLOS binds nations to a standard technique for identifying various areas of the sea, including internal and territorial waters, contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf. In case of overlapping maritime areas between neighboring states, countries have to negotiate the demarcation lines.

UNCLOS faces the challenges of geopolitical tensions that may increase the risk of escalation into open conflict.

Daniel Ahmad | Translator: Intern / Imaji Lasahido

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