Learning from Arctic Experiences for Cooperation in South China Sea
By Limin DONG, of South China Sea Institute, Xiamen University
According to Article 123 of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, States bordering an enclosed or semi-enclosed sea should cooperate with each other in the exercise of their rights and in the performance of their duties under this Convention. As a semi-enclosed sea, the bordering States should cooperate with each other. Besides, regional peace and stability are of vital importance to regional States. Just as Zhenmin LIU, Vice Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, has said at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Meeting 2017, “Peace and stability in South China Sea is crucial for the security, development and prosperity of all coastal States and the well-beings of their peoples. It is in the shared interests of all coastal States to promote peace, stability, prosperity and development, which is also our common responsibility.
In recent period, the SCS situations overall remain stable and the atmosphere for peace and cooperation is getting momentum, which creates favorable conditions for cooperation among SCS bordering States. Meanwhile, we should proactively seek for new modes of cooperation to facilitate SCS cooperation. The successes of cooperation in other regions may serve as beneficial guidance for SCS cooperation, such as the cooperative model among the Arctic States. The U.S. and Russia, as strategic competitors, still conduct sound cooperation within the Arctic Council, without being affected by their confrontations in other regions. There are following important reasons for this.
Firstly, the Arctic Council has excluded politically sensitive topics such as traditional security since its establishment. Its missions are limited to promoting sustainable development and environmental protection in the region. Its development in the two decades has effectively avoided the expansion of confrontations among some States in other regions to the Arctic Council. The Council has made great achievements in environmental protection and sustainable development and has won growing attention. Besides, the U.S. and Russia are both Arctic States, which is beneficial to their mutual recognition in the Arctic region. It would improve their understanding, reduce doubts and enhance cooperation between them. Moreover, after the Arctic States’ exquisite design of the Arctic Council’s organizational structure, only eight Arctic States, as the member States, are entitled to voting rights. Non-regional States and other stakeholders can only participate in the Council’s activities as observers, which, though being greatly criticized, has achieved some Arctic countries’ goal to restrict participation by non-regional countries.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, States bordering an enclosed or semi-enclosed sea shall endeavor, directly or through an appropriate regional organization, to conduct cooperation. In this regard, we propose to build up a cooperative regime in South China Sea similar to the Arctic Council, such as SCS Council of Peace and Cooperation. Such regime would include less politically sensitive issues such as disaster prevention and reduction, marine search and rescue, marine environmental protection and biodiversity, marine scientific research, navigational security etc., so that it would serve as a platform for the cooperation among the parties in these fields. Then the cooperation would gradually extend to other fields. The Arctic Council may also serve as an example for the organizational structure of such regime. The SCS bordering States, as official members of SCS Council, enjoy the voting rights, while other stakeholders may join as observers without voting rights. In this way, the obligation to invite, as appropriate, other interested States or international organizations to cooperate with them, could be fulfilled, and the willful intervention by non-regional States into the affairs of SCS Council would be avoided.
For more information, please refer to:
http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjbxw/t1449741.shtml Liu Zhenmin: Now Is the Right Time to Launch Cooperation among South China Sea Coastal States --South China Sea Session of Boao Forum for Asia Annual Meeting 2017 Opens