VIENTIANE: It is imperative that Asean handles the South China Sea dispute in a harmonious manner, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
He said the matter has to be handled delicately with healthy dose of sensitivity.
“Yes, it is tricky and sensitive. So, we have to manage it carefully,” he told reporters after the end of the second day of the ongoing Asean summit in the Laos capital.
On the recent decision by an international arbitration court that sided with the Philippines and not China on the South China Sea claims, Najib said there was no provision to enforce what had been decided.
“That is unless both parties have gone to arbitration and agreed to the terms of the arbitration.
“But this is unilateral on the part of the Philippines. So there is no mechanism for enforcement,” he said.
The tribunal in its ruling said China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas.
Four Asean countries – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – have claimed a stake in the South China Sea, apart from China and Taiwan.
To a question on why Beijing finally agreed to a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), Najib said China valued its good relations with Asean and the bloc had been persuading the republic to accept the CoC.