CITING a survey from the Xinhua News Agency, a People’s Daily article has unmasked Shunji Yanai as a manipulator behind the null South China Sea arbitration.
Published on Monday, the article names Yanai, a Japanese diplomat and former president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), as having played a key role in the case. He appointed four of the five members of the arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea case, and the fifth was appointed by the Philippines.
Yanai appointed the four members because China did not agree to the arbitration.
Rightist, hawkish, pro-American, unfriendly to China … these are the labels people often associate with Yanai, the article said. His closeness to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also no secret. Such an academic and political background also speaks for his political inclination during his tenure in the ITLOS.
Coming from a diplomatic family, Yanai entered the Japanese Foreign Ministry upon graduation, in 1961, where he was involved in sensitive projects related to the Diaoyu Islands and the Japan-US security alliance.
But in 2001, he left the Foreign Ministry along with three other officials amid a series of embezzlement scandals within the ministry.
However, Yanai, on recommendation of Japan, despite his tainted record, became a judge of the ITLOS in 2005 and president of the organization from 2011 to 2014.
After the Philippines unilaterally initiated the arbitration case against China in 2013, a five-member arbitral tribunal was created by Yanai, the then-president of ITLOS.
The Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, adopted by the UN to better maintain justice, stipulated that the extrajudicial activities conducted by the judges and arbitrators should not contradict their work or impede the judicial process.
However, Yanai also served as a mastermind of the Japanese government on military actions and security policies when he worked for the ITLOS.
With close ties to Abe, Yunai served as chairman of an expert panel advising the Prime Minister on security laws. In May 2014, his panel presented a report to Abe, advising to revise the country’s Constitution and lift the ban on Japan sending its military overseas.
As a result, Japan, in 2015, ended its 70 years of pacifism by enacting controversial security laws that allow for Japan to dispatch troops overseas to engage in armed conflict.
As conflicts between China and Japan over the sovereignty and delimitation of the Diaoyu Islands increased in recent years, Yanai advocated to lift the ban on Japan sending its military overseas and expanding the Japan-US military alliance to gain a military edge.
Given the maritime conflicts and historical issues between China and Japan, as well as Yanai’s political leanings, he is not the right person to engage in the South China Sea issue. Also, it is not surprising that Yanai generally chose arbitrators that were biased against China.
In addition, the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary also clarifies that in exercising rights, judges shall always conduct themselves in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of their office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.
However, Yanai has a clear political position as a rightist. During his term on the private panel, he repeatedly told Japanese media that the country has not given up its right to collective self-defense as prescribed in their Constitution.
In a program by the Japan Broadcasting Corp., he also asked Japan to resort to the Japan-US Security Treaty for security assurance, claiming that the UN is useless in this regard, thus exposing his double-sided nature.
“From the results of the arbitration, people can see that it was conducted by a bunch of people who knew very little about South China Sea issues,” said Motofumi Asai, a former official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry in charge of China Affairs and a former colleague of Yanai.
“The arbitration was obviously conducted in accordance to the will of the Abe administration,” he added.
All these facts prove that Yanai’s political background and leaning run counter to the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. Yanai’s tribunal was flawed in both justice and validity from the very first day of its establishment, the article concluded.