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Monday, January 15, 2018, 21:23 (GMT+7)
“International common norms” on peacefully settling sea disputes

For ages, peaceful settlement of disputes among countries has become the mainstream chosen by most countries all around the world. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS for short) has stipulated the fundamentals in solving the disputes among its member states by peaceful means. This is totally fit the UN Charter. So what are included in this settlement? In accordance with laws, international norms and practices, the settlement of sea disputes by peaceful means can be defined as: (1). Settling the disputes by peaceful negotiations (either bilateral or multilateral) pursuant to international laws and practices, and on the basis of equality and mutual respect in order to reach a fair decision for all parties; (2) Settling the disputes by mediation or by international arbitrating mechanisms, such as: The International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and other courts. To be more specific, the 1982 UNCLOS rules that: any disputes between member states must be solved firstly by view exchange and mediation. If the disputes are still not solved after a certain period of time, the involving parties are obliged to solve them by judicial means. The UNCLOS allows parties to choose one of the four mechanisms, namely: The International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Arbitration in the Annex VII, and Arbitration in the Annex VIII. If no mechanism is chosen among the four ones listed above, Arbitration in the Annex VII shall be the compulsory mechanism for settling the disputes.

As shown in international practice, many nations in the world (including the ones having close diplomatic relations with one another), after ineffective negotiations, brought the disputes to courts and abided by the court’s decisions in a strict manner. However, there are still nations which did not respect the court’s decision. Some typical cases at the International Court of Justice are: the delimitation of economic exclusive zone in the Gulf of Maine between the United States and Canada in 1984; the settlement of territorial disputes over islands between Malaysia and Indonesia in 2003 and between Singapore and Malaysia in 2008, etc. Another example of peaceful settlement of sea disputes which was praised and supported by international community is the arbitration case in which the Philippines took China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration under Annex VII to the 1982 UNCLOS for disputes in the South China Sea and ruled in 2016.

In conclusion, peaceful settlement of sea disputes among countries has become an inevitable trend of time supported by international community. This represents an important basis for countries to respect international laws, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS, contributing to maintaining a peaceful, stable environment and maritime safety and security at seas and worldwide.

Nguyen Duc Anh

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