Taiwan does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Philippines’ case against China on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) issue, reiterating instead that disputed islands there belong to it.
In a statement, Taiwan on Monday said Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Macclesfield Bank and Pratas Islands and their surrounding waters, which make up almost 90 percent of the resource-rich West Philippine Sea, are “an inherent part of ROC [Republic of China] territory and waters.”
“As the ROC enjoys all rights to these islands and their surrounding waters in accordance with international law, the ROC government does not recognize any claim to sovereignty over, or occupation of, these areas by other countries, irrespective of the reasons put forward or methods used for such claim or occupation,” the statement added.
It said the Philippines did not invite Taiwan to participate in the arbitration case it filed against China in January 2013, and neither did the arbitral tribunal in The Hague solicited Taiwan’s views on the case.
“Therefore, the arbitration does not affect the ROC in any way, and the ROC neither recognizes nor accepts related awards,” according to the statement.
The Philippines follows the One China Policy, which recognizes mainland China and views Taiwan as a renegade island under Beijing.
Taiwan has not been recognized by the United Nations, and is therefore also not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), on which the Philippines based its case against Beijing.
Taiwan, however, said it “consistently adhered” to the principles of peaceful settlement of international disputes and freedom of navigation and overflight of the UN Charter and other relevant international regulations.
It mentioned that it defended its claim over Taiping Island (Itu Aba), the largest of the islands in the region, and other islands “without ever getting into military conflict with other nations.”
Taiping Island is administered by Taiwan since 1956 as part of Cijin, Kaohsiung, but is also being claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Taiwan said it has not interfered with other nations’ freedom of navigation or overflight in the West Philippine Sea, something that China has been accused of doing in the past year because of its massive reclamation projects in the disputed region and its declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea.
“The ROC government calls on the coastal states of the South China Sea to respect the provisions and spirit of the UN Charter and Unclos, and to exercise restraint, safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight through the South China Sea, refrain from taking any action that might escalate tensions and resolve disputes peacefully,” the statement said.
It added that Taiwan proposed the South China Sea Peace Initiative on May 26, 2015, which aims to safeguard sovereignty, shelve disputes, pursue peace and promote joint development.
Taiwan is willing to work with other parties “to jointly ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea, as well as conserve and develop resources in the region.”
On October 29, the Philippines scored against China when the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case filed by the Philippines, which is challenging China’s nine-dash line claim.
The nine-dash line claim is based on the nine dashes found in old Chinese maps that cover almost 90 percent of the sea’s entire 3.5 million square kilometers.
The resource-rich region, which houses $5 trillion worth of annual global trade, is being claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam.
China used this claim to irreparably change the status quo in the region by building man-made islands that now house military garrisons and lighthouses.
The Philippines, after “exhausting all diplomatic means,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), decided to file a legal case before the court of arbitration in The Hague, The Netherlands.
It seeks to challenge the nine-dash line, the characterization of the maritime features in the region and China’s activities that allegedly destroyed marine life.
A source from the Foreign Affairs department told The Manila Times that Taiwan may be “confused” by reiterating its territorial rights over the islands because the Philippines’ case was about “maritime entitlements,” not sovereignty claims.
The Philippines has repeatedly explained that the nature of the arbitration case was not to define the ownership of the islands but to clarify each claimant’s maritime
entitlements–to use the resources of the island’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
It has been very clear about the categorization of the region’s maritime features into low-tide elevations to define maritime entitlements such as EEZ, continental shelf or territorial sea.