US backs PH move to seek int'l arbitration in sea row

By Jose Katigbak , The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 21 2013 07:36 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2013 03:36 PM

WASHINGTON – The United States supports the use of diplomatic and other peaceful means to manage and resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea, including the use of arbitration or other international legal mechanisms, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.

She made the statement in response to a query on whether a Philippine request for international arbitration in the maritime dispute rejected by Beijing went against other types of mediation efforts cited previously by the State Department.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) contains procedures under which parties can seek third-party dispute settlement with regard to certain disputes involving the interpretation or application of the convention, she said.

“We continue to encourage ASEAN and China at the same time to also make rapid progress on a meaningful code of conduct,” she said at her regular news briefing on Tuesday.

“We don’t believe that the pursuit of dispute settlement procedures set forth in the Law of the Sea Convention should preclude or hinder the code of conduct negotiations, so we see value to both,” she added.

China has said it would not accept international proceedings over the dispute. Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, including areas which Manila claims and calls West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez will visit the Philippines this week as part of a trip to Southeast Asia to discuss further strengthening US economic relations in the region and enhancing economic and commercial opportunities for mutual benefit.

He is scheduled to arrive today to meet government officials and private sector representatives to discuss a range of economic issues including trade, agricultural biotechnology and corporate social responsibility, said a State Department news release. He leaves Manila on Feb. 23.

Fernandez also will speak to business students about how fostering successful entrepreneurs can bolster economic growth and job creation.

From the Philippines he will visit Burma, Thailand and Singapore before returning home on March 1.