Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting (Source :

MFA: Sovereignty claims in South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned

Minister of Foreign Affairs reiterates Singapore’s position that sovereignty claims in South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned, accordance with international law and refrain from provocative behaviour that will raise tensions.

This was said by Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in his reply to the Parliamentary and Supplementary Question on 11 July raised by Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from Worker’s Party.

Mr Tan had asked the minister on the Ministry’s plans to reinforce a common ASEAN position on the South China Sea issue in light of the recent joint statement by China, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos in view of the fact that Singapore is currently the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership coordinator.

Balakrishnan said, “PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced in April 2016 a four-point consensus after his trips to Brunei, Cambodia and Laos. There have been no public statements on this four-point consensus from ASEAN Member States to date.”
In February 2016, during ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Viantine, Lao PDR, the Chair, stated that all 10 ASEAN Foreign Ministers need to put the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence in their priority and they need to exercise self-retrain in order to pursue peaceful resolution of the disputes in accordance with international law.
On the last Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Kunming, China, on June 14, the ASEAN members had a frank and intense discussion in terms of the situation in the South China Sea. The countries reaffirmed the importance of multi-faceted and mutually beneficial relationship and underscored the absolute need for peace and stability and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

Balakrishnan stated, “Territorial claims could be resolved by negotiations, adjudication or arbitration. The Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea that was adopted by ASEAN in 2012 clearly states that ASEAN supports the peaceful settlement of disputes, in accordance with international law, including 1982 UNCLOS.”

Singapore is not currently the chairman of ASEAN and it is not a claimant state in the South China Sea.

Balakrishnan said that the country have consistently stated, just like the statement that has been clearly articulated by his predecessor Minister K Shanmugam, that it takes no position on the merits of the specific territorial claims. But the claims should be settled in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and all parties should retrain from provocative behavior that could raise tensions.

The disputes have been going on since 2013, when Philippine brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

China has stated from the beginning that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no jurisdiction and refused to participate in the hearings and emphasized that it would ignore the ruling.

When the decision came out on Tuesday, China stated, “The arbitration tribunal made the illegal and invalid so-called final verdict on the South China Sea dispute on July 12. Regarding this issue, China has made the statement for many times that it is against the international law that the Aquino III administration of Philippines unilaterally requested the arbitration. The arbitration tribunal has no jurisdiction on this matter.”