UPDATE: Tribunal rules against Beijing in South China Sea dispute

4
Activists hold anti-China placards during a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila on Tuesday, ahead of UN tribunal ruling. It is time for China to do a #CHexit from the South China Sea, social media users and activists in the Philippines said July 12 on the eve of a crucial tribunal ruling. AFP PHOTO

Activists hold anti-China placards during a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila on Tuesday, ahead of UN tribunal ruling. It is time for China to do a #CHexit from the South China Sea, social media users and activists in the Philippines said July 12 on the eve of a crucial tribunal ruling. AFP PHOTO

THE HAGUE: An international tribunal on Tuesday ruled against China in a bitter row over territorial claims to the South China Sea that is likely to ratchet up regional tensions.

“The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’,” the Permanent Court of Arbitration said in a statement.

All eyes were watching for reaction from the Asian political and military powerhouse, which had fired off a barrage of criticism even before the decision by the PCA in The Hague was announced.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors.


Manila had lodged the suit against Beijing in 2013, saying that after 17 years of negotiations it had exhausted all political and diplomatic avenues.

Beijing waged a months-long campaign to discredit the panel, which it says has no jurisdiction in the multinational dispute, and it refused to take part in the case.

The state-run China Daily topped its front page with a picture of Woody Island in the Paracels, emblazoned: “Arbitration invalid”.

English-language headlines on the official Xinhua news agency included: “South China Sea arbitration abuses international law: Chinese scholar”, “Permanent Court of Arbitration must avoid being used for political purposes” and “The sea where Chinese fishermen live and die.”

Ahead of the decision, new Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had signaled he did not want to antagonize China, saying he would not “taunt or flaunt” a favorable ruling and would seek a “soft landing” with China.

Nine-dash line

China’s claims were first enshrined in a map drawn in the 1940s with a nine-dash line stretching south from China and encircling almost all of the sea, although it says Chinese fishermen have been using it for centuries.

To bolster its position it has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

It has held naval drills between the Paracels and the southern Chinese island of Hainan in recent days.

US naval destroyers have been patrolling near the Chinese-claimed Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands, supported by aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the US-based Navy Times reported.

Chinese state media have said Beijing will not take a “single step back” after the ruling, and President Xi Jinping said earlier this month that China would never compromise on sovereignty, adding: “We are not afraid of trouble.”

China had sought diplomatic support around the world, and foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said its latest backers included Angola, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea, showing that “justice and righteousness always have popular support.”

“Who is upholding the sanctity of international law and who is breaking international law, I think people are all clear about that,” Lu said.

‘Escalate war of words’

Manila lodged its suit against Beijing in 2013, saying China was in violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which both countries are signatories.

One of the key issues was whether the land features in the area are islands capable of supporting human habitation—which under UNCLOS are entitled to territorial waters and an exclusive economic zone—or rocks, which only have territorial waters, or low-tide elevations, which get neither.

If none of the outcrops are islands, then none of the claimants to them would gain sole rights to major expanses of the waters around them.

“The ruling can reduce the scope of the South China Sea disputes, but will not solve them,” said analysts Yanmei Xie and Tim Johnston of the International Crisis Group in a report.

The ruling was likely to “escalate the war of words”, they said, but added: “Escalation to military standoffs is not inevitable.”

China could choose to withdraw from UNCLOS, or begin building on Scarborough Shoal, which Washington would view as a provocation.

Beijing could also declare an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, claiming the right to interrogate aircraft passing through the airspace, or try to remove a ship grounded by the Philippines on Second Thomas Shoal for use as a base.

Alternatively, it could move to reduce tensions.

Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay told Agence France-Presse on Friday that Manila hoped to open direct talks with Beijing on the dispute, and presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Tuesday: “The top priority will be national interest.”

The Philippine embassy in China has warned its citizens to beware of personal “threats” and avoid political debates.

Nationalist demonstrations are not rare in China, sometimes apparently with the tacit backing of authorities.

More than 20 Chinese police were positioned outside the Philippine embassy on Tuesday, with more in vans nearby—a significantly larger presence than usual—along with two lorries loaded with crowd control barriers, a possible indication that authorities expected protests at the building. AFP

AFP/CC

 

 

Share.
.
Loading...

Please follow our commenting guidelines.

4 Comments

  1. Time to deploy our jet ski battle group and our 2 trainer jets with no missiles in our eez

  2. The ruling is not necessarily 100% in favor of the Philippines.

    The tribunal ruled that none of the Spratlys are full-fledged islands entitled to an EEZ. Based on that, the Philippine EEZ in the vicinity of the Spratlys is only everything within 200 nautical miles off the west coast of Palawan.

    Therefore the tribunal weakens the Philippine claim to territory beyond 200 nautical miles by saying there is no self-sustaining territory to be claimed.

    For example, Pag-Asa Island has been ruled NOT to have an EEZ around it. If it had been granted an EEZ by the tribunal, many nearby rocks would have been included by the 200 mile scope.

    Another way the ruling helps the Chinese position is that, since the Spratlys are not territory, then Chinese occupation of certain rocks beyond the Philippine EEZ cannot be considered illegal apart from the environmental damage done.

    • The Island’s are of Philippines by international laws. Stop Chinese Imperialism and invasion.

  3. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    12 July 2016

    The world consensus has been that the PCA ruling on the territorial-dispute case the Philippines lodged against China with the UN Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague would be favorable to the Philippines.

    That is now an established FACT.

    As expected, China is aroused to fury and will not honor or obey the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It thus prefers to be vilified by the world community as a Pariah or even as a Rogue State.

    The PCA has ruled in no uncertain terms that China’s arbitrary “Nine-Dash Line” is ILLEGAL under International Law.

    The problem is that the PCA has no mechanism to enforce its decision–but the United States, acting unilaterally and gratis et amore for the United Nations will very likely act as the enforcer of the PCA’s ruling, particularly in reference to China’s “Nine-Dash Line” which has been ruled illegal.

    This is no accident because the US has time and time again given the whole world to understand that it has a vested national interest in keeping completely open international waters in the South China Sea through which an estimated $5 trillion in trade passes annually
    .
    To back up its Word, it has already inaugurated FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION OPERATIONS IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA. The US now has the legal justification it could use to good advantage on the basis of the PCA ruling invalidating China’s “Nine-Dash Line.”

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    patalinjugmar@gmail.com