By Patricia Lourdes Viray
MANILA, Philippines — Beijing's condition of non-interference by "outside parties" for the talks on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea to start causes concern as it is vague and unfair, a maritime analyst said Monday.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea, said that the given condition falls upon China to determine whether it exists or not.
"In contract law that is a void condition when one of the parties, the debtor of the parties, the obliger, can decide when the obligation can be complied with," Batongbacal said in an interview with ANC.
On Sunday, China Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the start of the talks for a COC may be announced in November as long as the conditions are met and as long as the situation in the disputed waters is "generally stable."
Wang may have been referring to the United States, which has been conducting what it calls freedom of navigation patrols in the area, when he said that the conditions include non-interference of outside parties.
Batongbacal said that "generally stable" could mean anything from China which would be an unfair condition to place on the negotiations.'
Beijing may be purposely setting such conditions to discourage the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from seeking support from external partners, the analyst said.
"Whether in terms of military, diplomatic or even commercial interests, China is attempting to discourage the parties from engaging external partners, and that I think is a bad sign because we know that the rest of the region, Southeast Asia, is very much linked in various ways to external partners," Batongbacal said.
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