MANILA, Philippines—New Zealand supports the position of the Philippines and other allies that claimants to the Spratly chain of islands must heed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Department of National Defense said Friday.
The New Zealand government also agreed during a recent meeting with Filipino defense officials that the Spratly claimants—the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan—should abide by the code of conduct they had signed in 2002 about settling territorial dispute peacefully, the defense department said in a statement.
The UNCLOS sets a country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—an area where it has a right to explore for and exploit natural resources while allowing freedom of navigation and overflight to others— at 200 nautical miles from its coastline.
The Philippines has tussled with China over certain isles and reefs in the vicinity of the Spratly chain that fall within what Manila considers its EEZ as well as Beijing’s “nine-dash-line” claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Both sides noted that it is necessary for claimant countries to abide by the 1982 UNCLOS and adhere to the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, if peace and stability in the area were to be maintained,” the defense department statement said.
On August 4 the New Zealand and the Philippines engaged in an inaugural defense and security dialogue hosted by the DND in Manila.
The dialogue was meant to “bolster defense ties and with exchanging views on each other’s defense policies as one key step,” as well as to complement existing military cooperation between the two allies through the Mutual Assistance Program Talks.
The Philippine and New Zealand delegations were headed by Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino and New Zealand’s Secretary of Defense John McKinnon.
Also discussed were the situation in the South Pacific, New Zealand’s commitment in Timor Leste, Philippines-United States defense engagements, the Five Power Defense Arrangements, Philippine participation in UN peacekeeping operations, New Zealand Defense Force’s peacekeeping and conflict prevention efforts.
“Prospective areas of deeper defense cooperation were also examined particularly on peacekeeping operations as well as education and training,” officials said.
The Philippines and New Zealand are co-chairs of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus Expert Working Group on Peacekeeping.