Newsletter 2017/7
Newsletter 2017/7



Dispute Settlement ­

Deal reached on Timor Sea marks breakthrough in dispute but unknowns remain  (Channel News Asia, 6 September 2017)

The announcement by the Timor Sea Conciliation Commission is the first indication that Australia and Timor-Leste are making real progress towards resolving their maritime boundary dispute. If this process reaches a successful outcome, a permanent maritime boundary will have been drawn in the Timor Sea between Australia and Timor-Leste for the first time. However, the conciliation still has some steps to complete. A formal treaty will need to be negotiated, signed and ratified before a new legal framework exists.

See also: Australia and Timor-Leste strike deal to end maritime boundary dispute (ABC Net AU, 2 September 2017)

A $50 Billion ‘Breakthrough’ For Timor-Leste? (The Diplomat, 4 September 2017)

Human Rights 

Myanmar's Suu Kyi denounces terrorists, silent on Rohingya exodus (Channel News Asia, 6 September 2017)

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi on Sep 6 blamed "terrorists" for "a huge iceberg of misinformation" on the violence in Rakhine state but made no mention of the nearly 125,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled over the border to Bangladesh since Aug 25. The leader of the Buddhist-majority country has come under pressure from countries with Muslim populations over the crisis, and on Tuesday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional detribalisation.In a rare letter expressing concern that the violence that has raged for nearly two weeks in the northeastern state could spiral into a "humanitarian catastrophe", Guterres urged the UN Security Council to press for restraint and calm.

See also: Indian Prime Minister blames Rohingya violence on extremists (CNN, 6 September 2017)

ASEAN MPs Warn of Rights Deterioration in Cambodia Amid NGO, Media Crackdown (Radio Free Asia, 31 August 2017)

Southeast Asian members of parliament expressed “grave concerns” over what they called a “worsening human rights situation” in Cambodia, where the government has launched a crackdown on NGOs and independent media outlets ahead of general elections next year. Since Aug. 22, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has expelled U.S.-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute (NDI), suspended some 20 radio stations that aired content by U.S. broadcasters Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, and threatened to shutter the English language Cambodia Daily newspaper.

International Economic Law 

(Re)realising the ASEAN Economic Community (East Asia Forum, 24 August 2017)

As ASEAN turns 50, how much closer is it towards achieving economic integration? The grouping fell short of its target of realising the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015, deferring 105 of its 506 measures. ASEAN declared that the AEC had been ‘established’ but not actually realised, and accordingly moved the deadline. A successor called the AEC Blueprint 2025 was adopted at the 27th ASEAN Summit in November 2015. ASEAN’s greatest successes so far have been in tariff reduction. Today, more than 70 per cent of intra-ASEAN trade travels at the most-favoured nation rate of zero. In this way, ASEAN’s greatest achievements may have less to do with what it mandates than with what it promotes indirectly through a longstanding commitment to openness. But achievements in tariff liberalisation have been offset by — and partly driven — the rise in non-tariff impediments to trade, which increased from 1634 to 5975 between 2000 and 2015. ASEAN member countries also have more restrictive services policies in general than almost any other region in the world.

See also: ASEAN 2025 integration vision needs a reboot (The New Paper, 25 August 2017)

Growth, technology drive ASEAN Community (The Nation, 5 September 2017)

ASEAN needs a new priority cluster of e-services for integration boost (Straits Times, 24 August 2017)

How can RCEP benefit ASEAN? (Today Online, 25 August 2017)

ASEAN is no stranger to trade deals, having inked its first regional trade deal with China in 2002. It has similar standalone “Plus One” free trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand, which have collectively created a “spaghetti bowl” effect where ASEAN businesses grapples with different tariff rates and multiple rules-of-origin (ROO) provisions when trading with these countries.

RCEP would minimise these complex structural barriers by streamlining rules and procedures related to customs and trade-related infrastructure. In practical terms, ASEAN businesses would follow one set of procedures instead of having to navigate through five different sets of rules when trading with its RCEP partners. This would inevitably lead to greater ease of doing business in the region and increase ASEAN’s attractiveness as a trade and investment destination.

International Environmental Law 

Asians are in the dark about the region’s water pollution crisis (Eco-Business, 6 September 2017)

Asia is home to a worsening water pollution crisis thanks to an accelerating but weakly regulated industrial boom, but its most vulnerable citizens are kept in the dark about whether the water they use for drinking, farming and fishing is safe, a new report by think tank World Resources Institute (WRI) has found. Titled ‘Thirsting for Justice: Transparency and Poor People’s Struggle for Clean Water in Indonesia, Mongolia, and Thailand‘ and released on August 30 at the World Water Week in Stockholm, the report found that despite the fact that the governments of the three countries studied are legally required to be transparent about water quality information, they are flouting these laws. The findings showed that there is extensive legislation requiring governments to proactively release environmental information as well as fulfil Right to Information requests. Much of this is driven by the adoption of international standards on public disclosures into national law. 

International Organisations 

Chinese President Xi Jinping pushes for expanded Brics-Plus (Straits Times, 4 September 2017)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has lauded the successes of a grouping made up of the world's five major emerging economies amid doubts over its relevance. Speaking yesterday on the eve of the annual Brics summit in the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen, he also emphasised that the bloc was no talk shop but a "task force that gets things done". Mr Xi also pushed the Chinese concept of a Brics-Plus approach of involving other emerging markets and developing countries in the Brics forum, an idea first mooted earlier this year.

China made a mistake by including Pakistan terror outfits in BRICS declaration: experts (The International News, 6 September 2017)

Chinese experts have opined that China has made a mistake by including militants groups based in Pakistan and Afghanistan in BRICS declaration. The experts are of the view that the move could prove costly for its ties with countries in the region particularly Pakistan. Hu Shisheng, director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations told Indian media ties between China and Pakistan would face its biggest, biggest challenge since the 1960s following the declaration. He told Hindustan Times “Brics is not the ideal platform for the emerging economies to talk about terrorism. I think the agenda of this Brics summit has been hijacked by some forces.”

See also: Pakistan rejects BRICS declaration; says no 'safe haven' on its soil

New approaches to achieving ASEAN regionalism (East Asia Forum, 2 September 2017)

Throughout its 50-year history of regional cooperation, legalisation and institutionalisation have not featured all that prominently in ASEAN’s diplomatic repertoire. Especially in its formative years, ASEAN relied on political flexibility and institutional informality, eschewing binding legal relations. Even as laws and institutions were developed in ASEAN, adherence to them remained underwhelming. While ASEAN regionalism has often been lauded for achieving relative regional security, it has simultaneously been derided as weak and ineffective due to the lack of adequate implementation of its collective vision. But there are clear signs that the organisation has been adapting itself to have stronger laws and institutions since the ASEAN Charter was adopted in 2007.

Law of the Sea 

China demands Indonesia drop new name for Natuna waters (Jakarta Post, 3 September 2017)

China has issued a demand for Indonesia to reverse its decision to rename the South China Sea (SCS) waters that lie within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In July, the Indonesian government named the maritime region in question, which lies north of the Natuna Islands, the “North Natuna Sea." Channel News Asia reported that the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent an official note to the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing dated Aug. 25, expressing its opposition to the move. In the letter, China said Indonesia’s move to change an “internationally accepted name” resulted in the “complication and expansion of the dispute, and affects peace and stability”.

Vietnam slams China over military drills in disputed sea (Today Online, 6 September 2017)

Vietnam has delivered a sharp rebuke to China over military drills in the South China Sea, the second such warning in a week as tensions rise between the countries over the disputed waterway. China and Vietnam have long traded barbs over the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea, which Beijing claims most of. Tensions have flared in recent months, with Vietnam suspending an oil exploration project operated by Spain’s Repsol in an area off its coast claimed by Beijing. In June, a meeting between top Vietnamese and Chinese generals over border issues was abruptly cancelled, with both sides citing a sudden scheduling conflict. Hanoi condemned Beijing’s latest military drills in the Paracel Islands, a contentious archipelago claimed by both sides.

See also: China asked to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Vietnam News Agency, 6 September 2017)

The Truth about China’s Indonesia South China Sea Tantrum (The Diplomat, 6 September 2017)

Use of Force

Putin sells Russian-Chinese plan to diffuse North Korea crisis (Fox News, 6 September 2017)

Speaking after the talks with the visiting South Korean president, Putin in televised remarks urged North Korea's neighbors to support the Russian-Chinese roadmap. He said it "offers a genuine way to defuse the tensions and a step-by-step settlement." "We should not give in to emotions and push Pyongyang into a corner," Putin said in a news conference after the meeting, held on the sidelines of a conference on economic development of Russia's Far East. "As never before everyone should show restraint and refrain from steps leading to escalation and tensions."

See also: Putin: Military hysteria over N. Korea may lead to planetary catastrophe, heavy loss of life (RT News, 5 September 2017)

Putin: North Korea crisis could be 'impossible' to solve (CNN, 6 September 2017)

India and China agree to end border standoff (Channel News Asia, 28 August 2017)

India and China have agreed to an "expeditious disengagement" of troops in a disputed border area where their soldiers have been locked in a stand-off for more than two months, India's foreign ministry said. Indian and Chinese troops have been confronting each other at the Doklam plateau near the borders of India, its ally Bhutan, and China, in the most serious and prolonged standoff in decades along their disputed Himalayan border. The Indian ministry said the two sides had agreed to defuse the crisis following diplomatic talks.


Congratulations to the Winner and Runners-up for the AsianJIL Inaugural Young Scholars Prize!

Read the articles for free:

Victor KATTAN, Decolonizing the International Court of Justice: The Experience of Judge Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan in the South West Africa Cases

Sun THATHONG, Lost in Fragmentation: The Traditional Knowledge Debate Revisited

Kalana SENARATNE, Internal Self-Determination in International Law: A Critical Third-World Perspective

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