August 2016


Maritime Security Issues Generate Ghallenges, Opportunities in Asia



VNA, August 23, 2016 – An international symposium took place at Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 22 to look into maritime security in Asia, along with challenges and opportunities for peace, stability and sustainability.

At the three panel discussions, scholars analysed current maritime security challenges, especially in the East Sea where China has ramped up activities threatening peace, security and stability in the region.

They underscored the need to comply with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea so as to resolve sea-related security challenges, thereby helping maintain peace, stability and sustainable development.

Many opinions shared the view that as ASEAN is an important stakeholder in the East Sea issue, the bloc’s member nations should promote their cooperation and optimise such frameworks as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting.

They called on the regional countries to actively settle East Sea disputes through peaceful negotiations, which will also help ASEAN affirm its central role and growing stature in the world.

At the symposium, participants also talked about ASEAN cooperation in fisheries, disaster prevention, navigation and customs.

The event was held following The Hague tribunal’s ruling on the East Sea-related lawsuit filed by the Philippines against China.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, Indonesia’s Deputy Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Resources, told Vietnam News Agency that ASEAN nations which are involved in East Sea disputes need to take stronger actions by making clear commitments on conduct in the waters.

Sea-related matters are mentioned in legal documents, and countries who violate them can be sued if they are parties to commitments stated in international law on the sea, he added.

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Rule of Law ‘Common Denominator’ in Maritime Security

HAVAS AIS(edited)  

HAVAS AIS(edited)

Jakarta Post, August 23 2016 -The rule of law will keep the playing field level when it comes to debating maritime security in an Asia-Pacific region charged with competing interests, international maritime law experts argue.

As Asia is increasingly becoming the center of global economic growth, the region’s existing maritime security architecture needs to be improved, says Deputy Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Arief Havas Oegroseno.

Balancing between traditional and non-traditional security threats, domestic factors, the need for operational-level arrangements and the undeniable influence of Sino-American relations on the region, Havas argued that regional policymakers at the highest levels needed to keep the playing field level, or risk seeing regional tensions escalate.

“[We have] all these elements in the larger picture of what I call the ‘Paradox of Asia’: On the one hand, Asia has tremendous economic development, […] but in strategic and security issues sometimes our behavior is still [stuck in the] 19th century,” he said in a keynote speech at an international maritime security symposium in Jakarta.

One of the best solutions that countries in the region can rely on regardless of their economic, political and demographic standing, is the rule of law, Havas added. “Going back to the law is very important because we have a common reference of what it is in terms of the conduct of countries in the region.”

This assertion was supported by Robert Beckman, professor at the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore.

“The Law of the Sea is critically important to protect the interests of the coastal states in the region,” said Beckman, referring to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He did, however, point out that relying on the general principles of international law alone would not suffice and that more rules of engagement were needed to encompass all the outstanding issues in the region.

“If we talk about maritime security issues, we must talk about where the actual events are, whether in territorial seas, straits, archipelagic waters or economic zones, but in many other respects, maritime security issues are not handled in any detail in UNCLOS,” he said.

Beckman said most countries in Southeast Asia, or at least all the countries surrounding the South China Sea, were parties to UNCLOS, with the exception of North Korea and Cambodia.

Beckman also shone a light on the US, which has yet to ratify the convention. With regard to this, Havas urged the US to ratify UNCLOS “as soon as possible” to maintain credibility and engagement in the region.

For Southeast Asia, at least in Indonesia’s perspective, UNCLOS has been pivotal for maintaining peace, stability and allowing countries to prosper economically, especially as regards the South China Sea issue.

A recent international tribunal ruling has provided a buffer against China’s expansionist claims in the sea, allowing smaller countries with competing claims like the Philippines to negotiate on an equal standing with the East Asian giant.

The ruling, based on the principles of UNCLOS, dismantled Beijing’s controversial nine-dash line, the basis for its unitary claim over features in the South China Sea.

Beijing rejected the ruling and its application, but the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s leading legal expert, Damos Dumoli Agusman, argued that the decision remained valid even without China’s political support, although it was still up to the claimants to resolve the core issue.

Besides the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam also have competing claims with China and Taiwan in the disputed body of water, through which US$5 trillion of global trade passes each year.

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