India, Japan urge countries not to resort to threat or force
Saying parties involved in the matter must not resort to “threat or use of force”, in remarks that could anger China which is opposed to any outside interference.
After their comprehensive talks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe reiterated their commitment to respect freedom of navigation and overflight, and unimpeded lawful commerce, based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“In this context, they urged all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoid unilateral actions that raise tensions,” according to a joint statement issued after their talks.
“Regarding the South China Sea, the two prime ministers stressed on the importance of resolving the disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the UNCLOS,” it said.
The remarks may not go down well with China, which has been asking countries to refrain from “interfering” in the disputed South China Sea.
Ahead of Modi’s visit, a Chinese state media report had on Wednesday warned India it might suffer “great losses” in bilateral trade if it joined Japan in asking China to abide by an international tribunal’s ruling, quashing Beijing’s claims over the SCS.
As leaders of the state parties to the UNCLOS, Modi and Abe “reiterated their view that all parties should show utmost respect to the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans”. This assumes significance given that China had rejected a verdict given by an international tribunal striking down Chinese claims over the SCS.
China has been making aggressive advances in the strategic region – parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei – by rapidly building artificial islets that experts fear could be potentially used as military posts.
China claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.