SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Thailand’s prime minister and India’s defence minister called on Friday for upholding international law as they spoke at an Asian security summit that is being held ahead of a key U.N. court ruling on the South China Sea dispute.
But both stopped short of saying that the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, likely within weeks, should be binding. The Philippines has gone to court to contest China’s claims to an area of the sea stretching deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
“We support peaceful resolution of the disputes in line with international law, including UNCLOS,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, referring to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Earlier, influential U.S. Senator John McCain said he feared for the consequences if China rejected the U.N. court’s ruling and called on Asian nations to back U.S. statements that the outcome should be binding.
China does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction in the dispute and has said it will not be bound by its ruling.
“China can choose to disrupt the rules-based order. Or it can choose to become a vital partner in maintaining it,” McCain said on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore.
“I fear the consequences if China chooses the path of disruption,” McCain added, later saying it could force the wider region to cooperate more closely militarily and economically.
Besides China and the Philippines, parts of the South China Sea are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.