Asia and International Law

Law of the Sea – Philippines to present China sea case at Hague next month (Bangkok Post, 15 June 2015)

The Philippines will argue its case against China's claim over most of the disputed South China Sea at The Hague from July 7 to 13. Philippine officials and diplomats, assisted by US lawyers, will represent the country in the proceedings, Foreign Department spokesman Charles Jose said. The Philippines asked the UN tribunal in January 2013 to declare China's claim invalid and against international law. Manila says some of the areas claimed by its powerful Asian neighbour encroach on the former's exclusive economic zone as defined by a 1982 UN convention on the law of the sea, which both countries have ratified. Recently the Philippines accused China of taking more aggressive measures to press its claim.

These include reclaiming land to turn previously submerged islets into artificial islands capable of hosting military installations. This has alarmed foreign governments including the United States and Japan, raising fears it could eventually impede freedom of navigation and commerce.
International Organisations – Korea may declare itself MERS-free in late July (Korea Times, 1 July 2015)

The government is cautiously weighing when to declare Korea free from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The country has not had any new cases of the disease for four consecutive days since Sunday. If the situation continues, the government may declare itself MERS-free as early as later this month, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The ministry said Wednesday that there were no new cases besides the already confirmed 182. No more deaths were reported, so the fatality rate remained at 18.1 percent. Signs are becoming more evident that the outbreak is waning. Professor Eom Joong-sik at the Sacred Heart Hospital also said regional health authorities are receiving less and less requests for MERS tests.  "The team is considering declaring the country MERS-free if no case is reported for 28 days, twice the incubation period, since the last confirmation," Eom said. "We sent an inquiry about it to the World Health Organization (WHO) and if it agrees, we may be able to declare Korea free from MERS around July 25."
In case of Ebola and other infectious diseases, the WHO usually declares the end of a disease when no new cases are reported for twice the disease's incubation period.

International Organisations – Who Wants to Rule the World? (Straits Times, 27 June 2015)

Prior to Mr Ban Ki Moon stepping down next year, one might think that a global search is under way, perhaps using an executive search firm. One might assume that a job description has been circulated with prominent placement in the Economist magazine and elsewhere. Shortlists would then be drawn up, interview panels convened, a battery of psychometric tests administered to ensure that the best candidate possible can be identified, recruited and hired. One would be wrong on all counts. Not only is there no formal search process - but there is not even a job description. The UN Charter is vague, merely defining the position as the "chief administrative officer" of the organisation. The secretary-general is appointed by the General Assembly "upon the recommendation of the Security Council".

International Economic Law – Indonesian mining law and WTO rules (Jakarta Post, 22 June 2015)
Indonesia is binding itself to an international organization that has the ultimate derogative decision-making process, namely the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. As a consequence, any national law with international trade impacts should ideally comply with the agreed provisions within this organization. A dissenting measure will possibly be challenged under the WTO Dispute Settlement Body. The Indonesian Mining Law, along with its export ban, is prone to violating GATT Article XI: 1, which prohibits a member from using any quantitative or other non-tariff means to restrict exports. While this prohibition is subject to various exceptions, none of these exceptions can be used for promotion of domestic industries. Prominent cases that involve export bans of natural resources are Canada’s salmon-herring case and the recent Chinese raw materials case.
International Economic Law – Australia bids to join WTO Government Procurement Agreement (Supply Management, 21 June 2015)

Australia is the latest country to signal its intent to join the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). It said it planned to submit an initial market access offer for GPA accession within the coming months, which will trigger the negotiations on its entry terms. The announcement was made at a meeting of the WTO's Committee on Government Procurement earlier this month, where progress was also reported on the accession bids of several other pending applicants to the GPA, which allows members to open their government procurement markets to each other.

Human Rights – North Korea fears famine as U.N. says drought halves food production (Reuters, 18 June 2015)

North Korea faces further food shortages as production in the country's main growing region is expected to be cut in half, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). FAO representatives visited the country's breadbasket in North Hwanghae and South Hwanghae provinces on June 10 and found that potato, wheat and barley harvests were at risk of being cut by up to 50 percent in drought-hit areas. Wells are dry and reservoir levels are low following below-normal rainfall and snowfall in 2014 and early 2015. "We don't have enough information to say if people are starving or not," senior FAO official Liliana Balbi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "But the situation is serious. They are on the borderline." State media in the isolated country called it "the worst drought in 100 years".

Human Rights – UN Chief Begins Central Asia Tour Amid Rights Concerns (The Diplomat, 10 June 2015)

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has begun his June mission through through all five Central Asian capitals in the middle of June. Human rights organizations hope Ban takes the opportunity to press regional leaders on human rights issues. Ban said in an interview that he is visiting the region to “support and promote a common response to the many cross-border challenges the region faces, including environmental issues, water and energy, drug trafficking and trans-boundary crime.”

Other Areas of International Law – Crack international law team to join in China’s hunt for fugitives (South China Morning Post, 5 May 2015)
Beijing is building a team of experts on international law to help repatriate fugitives abroad and tackle its territorial disputes with neighbouring countries. The foreign ministry established an international law committee earlier this year, emphasising Beijing's hopes of advancing its interests through treaties and legal provisions. The committee comprises 15 scholars and experts. These include: Shi Jiuyong, a former judge at the International Court of Justice; Rao Geping, a law professor at Peking University; Huang Jin, president of the China University of Political Science and Law; and Liu Nanlai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Observers said China urgently needed to improve its study of international law as Beijing stepped up its anti-corruption campaign by targeting fugitives abroad. Beijing's flexing of its muscles in territorial disputes, particularly in the South China Sea, provides further impetus to study international law. Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said China was seeking to justify its territorial claims through legal means and needed more experts to do so.
Law of the Sea – America's Dangerous South China Sea Gamble (The Diplomat, 23 May 2015)

The idea that the United States may send military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around Chinese claimed islands in the South China Sea is seriously bad. It’s bad because it would involve an unreasonably assertive interpretation of the international law of the sea, and because it shows such little regard for the impact of such action on regional stability. There are three main implications of the U.S. proposal that concern the law of the sea. The first is the status of China’s claims to the disputed islands. The second issue is the oft-stated line from Washington that China threatens the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The last law of the sea issue arises from reports that the options being considered in Washington include sending aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles of the reefs and islands occupied by China. The action contemplated by the United States looks like a dangerously unilateral assertion of rights by Washington. What’s even more worrying is that the US, as a non-party to UNCLOS, may be ignoring some of the convention’s carefully balanced outcomes between the rights of coastal States and those of major maritime powers.

See also:

South China Sea: The One-Move Chess Player (The Diplomat, 25 May 2015)

China and 'might makes right' at sea (Straits Times, 27 May 2015)

International Economic Law – Agreement on Articles of Agreement milestone for establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Xinhua, 23 May 2015)

The 5th Chief Negotiators' Meeting on establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) concluded its May discussion with an agreement being reached on the Articles of Agreement (AOA) and a decision being made that the signing of the AOA take place at the end of June in Beijing. Though representatives of founding members didn't reveal many details such as equity allocation, approval process and whether China has veto power after the close-door meeting, Shi Yaobin, Vice Minister of Chinese Ministry of Finance and Permanent Chair of the Chief Negotiators' Meeting, told Xinhua that the planned authorized capital of AIIB will be allocated based on GDP data for Asian countries. "The planned authorized capital of the AIIB is US$100 billion, which will be allocated based upon GDP data for Asian countries. As for countries outside the region, GDP is also an important criterion for allocation." said Shi in an interview with Xinhua after the meeting. The media had speculated that the AIIB would copy the IMF practice of allocation based on GDP and capital. Research done by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) showed that China (30.85%) will be the largest shareholder in the AIIB, followed by India (10.4%), Indonesia (3.99%), Germany (3.96%) and South Korea (3.93%) if Asian countries account for 75% of the shares and allocation is based on the rule that GDP accounts for 60% while purchasing power parity (PPP) weighs about 40%.

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