MANILA, Philippines — Bilateral transactions may not be the best arrangement right now to settle the territorial disputes over the South China Sea, the United States’ top strategy creator for East Asia and the Pacific said.

Hon-Daniel-Russel
Assistant State Secretary Daniel Russel

At a recent conference organized by Washington-based think tank The Center for Strategic and International Studies. Assistant State Secretary Daniel Russel said” I don’t know anyone in the region who believes that a negotiated settlement between China and other claimants is attainable in the current atmosphere.”

China has long been demanding that it resumes and continues bilateral talks with the Philippines and other claimants over the maritime dispute as it embraces expansive large scale reclamation on contested sea features.

Meanwhile, The Philippines, is seeking arbitration against China before a United Nations tribunal,  which is right now pondering on its jurisdiction over the case.

Russel said that while the US doesn’t take any position on the claims, it has called for either arrangements, negotiations or arbitration as the two peaceful means to settle the competing claims.

He admitted, however, that immediate and direct talks may not address the various contending claims by China, the Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Likewise making arrangements troublesome is an “absolutist political position taken by a few petitioners who demand that their own particular claims are ‘indisputable’ and represent territory—however distant from their shores,” Russel said, without specifically citing China.

He said such claims include assertions that the territorial waters were “entrusted to them by ancestors” and vows never to relinquish “one inch.”

Russel also sees that if the arbitral tribunal finds it has jurisdiction under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) over the Philippines’ claims and proceeds deliberating on the merits of the case, its potential ruling can legally bind parties to the row.

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By: Jason E.
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