Asia and International Law

International Humanitarian Law & the Use of Force – Security Council strongly condemns DPRK nuclear test (UN News, 10 September 2016)

The United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) nuclear test on 9 September and said it is a clear violation of repeated calls on the country to halt such activity. In a press statement after the Council held urgent consultations on the situation, the 15-member body underlined that the test is a clear violation and "in flagrant disregard" of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006)1874 (2009),2087 (2013)2094 (2013) and 2270 (2016), as well as of the non-proliferation regime. “Therefore a clear threat to international peace and security continues to exist,” the statement said. Furthermore, members the Council also recalled that they had previously expressed their determination to take further significant measures in the event of another DPRK nuclear test.

International Organisations – Japan, China vie for ASEAN influence (Nikkei Asian Review, 8 September 2016)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tacitly warned Southeast Asian leaders against making too many concessions to China, engaging in a diplomatic tug of war with Beijing ahead of the East Asia Summit. "I expect ASEAN to play a leading role in creating stability and prosperity in the region by following the rule of law," Abe said Wednesday at a meeting with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The comment earned calls of agreement from some present. He expressed deep concern about "continued attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the South and East China seas over the past few months."

See also: How China bought its way into Cambodia (Today, 12 September 2016)

International Organisations – ASEAN could become 4th largest economy in the world (Asia One, 6 September 2016)

The ASEAN economy is expected to grow at 7 per cent per annum, with GDP reaching US$4.7 trillion (S$1.9 trillion) in 2020 and the possibility of becoming the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030, the Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said. ASEAN is a single market and production base with a combined GDP of US$2.43 trillion (S$3.3 trillion )in 2015, ranking as the sixth largest economy in the world, Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said at the opening ceremony of the 13th ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ASEAN-BIS 2016). The ASEAN-BIS 2016 is being held on the sidelines of the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits in Vientiane. The ASEAN community is a community of opportunities not only for the over 620 million people in ASEAN but also for the people outside the region. The role of the private sector remains a key element for further progress in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025 implementation and regional economic integration.

International Organisations – ASEAN must work more closely to tackle new terror trends: PM Lee (Today, 7 September 2016)

While South-east Asia has been dealing with terrorism for some years, the emergence of three new trends means there is a greater need for the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) to work more closely to tackle the issue, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Addressing regional leaders at an Asean retreat on Wednesday (Sept 7), Mr Lee outlined the worrying trends of a rise in cases of self-radicalisation, growing links between terrorist groups and a spike in the number of attacks. “These are single individuals, self-radicalised, acting alone, difficult to stop,” he said during the informal closed-door session where leaders discuss regional and international issues, adding that there is a steady trickle of one or two self-radicalised individuals detected by the Singaporean authorities every month. He noted that the frequency of the attacks has increased. “It used to be a significant attack every few months, now we hear of attacks every few weeks, sometimes every few days in different parts of the world — and you have the Jakarta bombings and shootings in January, the attack in Puchong, Selangor in June and then most recently the bombing in Davao (last week).”Terrorist organisations that have been present in South-east Asia for the past decade, such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf, have also linked up with Islamic State (IS), as well as with Uighurs from China, he noted. “We have to work more closely together, share intelligence, share our analysis of threats, counter extremist doctrines and exchange views, and take concerted actions against terrorist groups.”

International Organisations – State of play: The race for the next UN Secretary-General (New Europe, 12 September 2016)

The next United Nations Secretary-General is to be decided this October, but recent straw poll results show that the decision for the position is still very much up in the air.

Currently there are ten nominated candidates, including Srgjian Kerim (Macedonia), Danilo Türk (Slovenia), Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Natalia Gherman (Republic of Moldova), António Guterres (Portugal), Helen Clark (New Zealand), Vuk Jeremić(Serbia), Susana Malcorra (Argentina), Miroslav Lajčák (Slovak Republic) andChristiana Figueres (Costa Rica).  Two additional candidates, Vesna Pusić (Croatia) andIgor Lukšić (Montenegro) have already withdrawn. But another candidate, the European Commission’s Vice-President, Kristalina Georgieva (Bulgaria), may enter the race. There has been a push from many directions for a woman to occupy the role and it has been supported by the UN Presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly, who wrote, “Convinced of the need to guarantee equal opportunities for women and men in gaining access to senior decision-making positions, Member States are encouraged to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position” in a letter to the permanent representatives of the UN. Despite this suggestion, the most recent straw polls conducted at the beginning of September have placed Guterres, with experience as the former prime minister of Portugal and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as the overall top contender.

International Economic Law – WTO appeals court backs South Korea in US trade dispute (Channel News Asia, 7 September 2016)

South Korea largely won an appeal ruling at the World Trade Organization in a challenge that puts U.S. anti-subsidy duties on Korean-made washing machines in jeopardy. The ruling by the WTO Appellate Body, which is final, strengthened South Korea's win by reversing part of the earlier ruling that had gone in Washington's favour, concerning the calculation of anti-subsidy duties. The ruling does not immediately strike down the U.S. duties imposed in 2013 after Washington found that South Korea was unfairly subsidizing and pricing Korean-made washers exported to the United States.

The U.S. Commerce Department had imposed anti-subsidy duties of up to 82 percent on washers made by Samsung Electronics Co , LG Electronics Inc and Daewoo Electronics Co after a complaint brought by Michigan-based Whirlpool Corp. South Korea complained to the WTO about the methodology used to calculate the duties. The panel ruling in March rejected part of South Korea's complaint, including objections to the U.S. Commerce Department's findings that tax credit subsidies were not tied to specific products. The WTO Appellate Body upbraided the panel for making several wrong decisions about the U.S. methodologies, and said Washington, not Seoul, was in the wrong.
International Economic Law – The US will have zero credibility in Asia if TPP fails, ex-CIA official warns (CNBC, 12 September 2016)

The U.S. political impasse on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is a "brewing disaster" that could be a significant setback for U.S. engagement in Asia. "I think U.S. credibility goes almost to zero in the region if we don't get that done," said Christopher Johnson, senior adviser at Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. The U.S. and 11 countries in the Pacific region last year reached an accord on the TPP deal to liberalize trade among the participating countries and set common standards and cut barriers. However, doubts have grown over the deal after leading presidential candidates in the U.S. adopted a more protectionist stance ahead of the elections in November. "It really is the economic component of the US pivot to Asia. If we don't get this done in the lame duck-session in Congress--which now looks very likely since we have both major candidates opposing the deal--it really is a great advertisement for China message in the region," Johnson said.

Law of the Sea – ASEAN considers tribunal’s verdict on South China Sea ‘legal and binding’: Barack Obama (Indian Express, 9 September 2016)

In an apparent warning to China, US President Barack Obama has said all ASEAN members agreed that Beijing should uphold the verdict of The Hague arbitration tribunal on the South China Sea dispute with the Philippines as it is “legal and binding”. “With regards to security, our nations reaffirmed our commitment to a regional order, where international rules and laws are upheld and where disagreements are all peacefully resolved. There is recognition of the importance of the international arbitrational ruling in July, which is legal and binding and which clarified maritime claims by the Philippines and China in the South China Sea,” Obama said during a press conference at the end of the ASEAN Summit in Laos. He said during the Summit, all nations have agreed to respect the international laws, not militarising disputed areas and not occupy uninhabited islands, reefs and shores.

See also: South China Sea: Philippines And Washington Should Give China Some Space (Forbes, 11 September 2016)

China appreciates Putin's position on South China Sea issue (Xinhua, 8 September 2016)

Law of Development – At regional UN meeting, South-East Asian countries agree to establish dedicated health emergency preparedness fund (UN News 9 September 2016)

Countries in the South-East Asian sub-region have agreed to establish a dedicated funding stream to build preparedness for health emergencies in the region, which is also one of the most disaster-prone in the world, the United Nations health agency has said.

“The new funding stream for emergency preparedness […] is an expression of the solidarity shared within the region, as well as recognition that preparedness is less costly than response,” the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Director for the South-East Asia Region, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said. Noting that the region has suffered numerous health emergencies due to earthquakes, cyclones, and floods, and that it is threatened by a range of diseases such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), pandemic influenza, and Zika virus, the UN health agency said that the new fund will allow countries to invest in infrastructure and human resources to enhance preparedness.

Law of Development – As migration continues to accelerate in south-east Asia, UN health agency calls for a focus on migrants’ health (UN News, 8 September 2016)

Noting greater vulnerability of the health of migrant populations, including heightened risks of infectious diseases, malnutrition, substance abuse and maternal and neonatal mortality, the United Nations health agency has urged a regional meeting of health officials in south-east Asia for an increased focus on their health needs. “Disease is universal and transcends borders. As health leaders we must tackle the health problems that affect migrant populations,” the World Health Organization's (WHO) Regional Director for the South-East Asia Region, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said in a news release. “We need to construct better information systems to collect data on the health issues of migrants; institute policy and legal frameworks that facilitate greater health care access; and create inclusive health systems sensitive to the needs of migrants,” she added.

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