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The South China Sea Arbitration

Remarks by Spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General on the South China Sea Arbitration

The following is an excerpt of a near-verbatim transcript of noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General on 12 July 2016, which focuses on the South China Sea arbitration. 

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  As you know, the court… the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled against China in the China‑Philippines dispute on the Law of the Sea.  Do you think it has implications for other parties to similar disputes in the South China Seas?

Spokesman:  Well, you know, we’re obviously aware of the decision rendered by the Tribunal, which was established under Annex VII of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The Secretary‑General has consistently called on all parties to resolve their disputes in the South China Sea in a peaceful and amicable manner through dialogue and in conformity with international law, including the UN Charter.  It remains important to avoid actions that would provoke or exacerbate those tensions.  Yes?

Question:  Following up on the South China Sea.  Are every concerned countries advised to abide by the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague?

Spokesman:  You know, the UN doesn’t have a position on the legal and procedural merits of the case or on the disputed claims.  And, you know, as for the details concerning the settlements of disputes mechanism under the Convention of the Law of the Sea that are set forth in paragraph… in Part XV and relevant annexes to that treaty; thus, the Secretary‑General does not have anything to add in this regard.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Some other things, but just on that, I don’t know if you’ve seen a Philippine group has… is proposed that somehow the UN get involved in this with a “maritime peace zone” and the UN stepping in to administer disputed shoals and artificial islands.  Is that something that, to your knowledge, the UN…?

Spokesman:  Well, I think, as I said, the Secretary‑General has consistently called on all parties to resolve their dispute in a peaceful and amicable way through dialogue.  I think while the dialogue continues, it’s important for States to exercise restraint on the conduct and contentious activities in the South China Sea.  He has consistently expressed his hope that the continued consultations on a Code of Conduct between ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and China under the framework of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea will lead to increased mutual understanding among all the parties.

Source: United Nations: Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.

PCA Press Release: PCA Case No. 2013-19 – The South China Sea Arbitration (The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China)


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