The following Kathmandu Declaration was adopted by the lawyers of the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) at their meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal, on July 28, 2023:
We, lawyers of the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP), gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal, on July 28, 2023, are concerned about the current military tension in the Asia-Pacific region and hereby declare:
The United States, since President Trump, has increased its military presence in Asia, by advancing a concept of an “Indo-Pacific region,” and has strengthened its military alliance with Japan and South Korea in particular, in an effort to encircle China, North Korea, and Russia. The Asian neighbors surrounding China, Russia, and North Korea have been increasing their military capabilities and exercises. Such moves exacerbate military confrontations in Asia, increase the risk of war, and violate the right of the peoples of Asia to live in peace.
On the Korean Peninsula, under the pretext of responding to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons testing, U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises mobilized US nuclear strategic assets including nuclear strategic submarines. Military exercises have been more frequently conducted on a large scale since the advent of the Yoon administration, and the DPRK has repeatedly launched missiles for testing in response to these exercises. This nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula is the most serious since the Korean War. Japan is attempting to become the world’s third-largest military power by projecting the threat of China and the DPRK, developing the Self-Defense Forces’ capability to attack enemy bases, and doubling its military budget. Under President Biden’s leadership, the U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral military alliance has held numerous meetings, and the three countries have confirmed that they will strengthen their military to deter North Korea. Many years of economic sanctions on DPRK have not been lifted, resulting in the confrontation becoming more serious and intense with a possibility of nuclear war which will devastate in Northeast Asia. Therefore, the resolution of these issues relating to the Korean Peninsula must be resolved with urgency and we call for immediate dialogue between all governments in Northeast Asia.
In Taiwan, the Taiwan contingency scenario released by the CSIS, a U.S. think tank, details military action by the U.S., Japan, and Taiwan in the event of a Taiwan contingency. U.S. military action does not fall under the right of collective self-defense under the UN Charter but is merely military interference in internal affairs. By highlighting the Chinese threat, Japan seeks to build up its military power and complement U.S. strategy.
In the Philippines, the U.S. has added use of four new military bases and is strengthening its military capabilities toward Taiwan contingency and the South China Sea, and U.S.-Philippine military exercises are being conducted for this purpose.
In addition to strengthening its military alliance with South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, the U.S. is also strengthening encirclement of China in the Indo-Pacific countries at large, involving countries outside of Asia, such as Australia and the U.K. in AUKUS and QUAD.
In the South China Sea, China continues escalating tension by sending survey ships to Vietnamese exclusive economic zone, deploying strategic aerial bombing exercises in the SCS, intimidating Philippines Coast Guard vessels and constructing military facilities in offshore islands. In this context a peaceful solution is required, including compliance with the arbitration tribunal ruling made on July 12, 2016 in the Philippines’ case against China in the South China Sea, the provisions of UNCLOS and the conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
In Bangladesh, there is serious Rohingya refugee crisis continuing unabated. About more than 10 million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh victims of persecution committed by Myanmar’s military junta. COLAP demand that Myanmar urgently must accept the repatriation of Rohingya refugees ensuring their security, dignity, with rehabilitation and confirm on them their rights of citizenship in their motherland under UN guidelines.
The COLAP expresses its serious concerns regarding ongoing violence against women and free thinkers in Afghanistan. We condemn NATO and Taliban for their war crimes and crimes against humanity and for the present volatile consequences. We demand that criminal proceeding the initiated against NATO occupation forces and Taliban in the International Criminal Court.
COLAP calls upon all major countries in Asia to cease interference in the internal policies of the nations in the region and refrain from diktat and hegemony.
We should strengthen the larger flow of non-aligned nations such as ASEAN, BRICS, SAARC, and NAM, which are centered on the Global South, and oppose military alliance from inter-state relations of military alliances; to advance from military confrontation to a non-aligned Asia. We oppose new colonialism in any form.
Since its inception in 2016, COLAP has organized meetings of lawyers from Asia-Pacific countries and issued important statements and resolutions. We have emphasized the need to ensure compliance with the UN Charter’s principles of peaceful settlement of disputes and prohibition of the use of force. We have called for international relations to be based on the principle of multilateralism in the UN Charter. We must avoid all military confrontations in the Asia-Pacific to realize the right to peace and development of the peoples of Asia as set forth in the U.N. Declaration and the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights, and we rededicate ourselves to achieve this goal.