Friday, July 21, 2017

International court rules China's island-building illegal

China's claim of sovereignty over much of the South China Sea was decisively rejected Tuesday in a long-awaited legal ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.The five-judge tribunal issued a unanimous decision in favor of the Philippines on the overwhelming majority of claims it made against China.

The tribunal concluded that any rights that China may have had in the South China Sea were no longer valid. (Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Chinese state media immediately denounced the verdict, issuing bulletins stating China would neither "accept or acknowledge" the tribunal's ruling.
The tribunal concluded that any historic rights to resources that China may have had in the disputed South China Sea were no longer valid.
The 500-page opinion covers numerous issues in contention, but one of the major findings is that China's citing of historical precedent to assert sovereignty over the disputed area was superseded by a U.N. treaty that established exclusive economic zones.

"The tribunal concluded that, to the extent China had historic rights to resources in the waters of the South China Sea, such rights were extinguished to the extent they were incompatible with the exclusive economic zones provided for in the Convention," said a release accompanying the lengthy ruling.
The tribunal also rejected China's so called "nine-dash line," which it drew to lay claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.
The tribunal ruled that although Chinese navigators and fishermen "had historically made use of the islands" in the South China Sea, "there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.
"The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line'," according a summary of the ruling.
Despite China's refusal to participate in the proceedings, and its rejection of the verdict, the ruling is final and legally binding. However, there is no enforcement mechanism, aside from China's standing in the international community.

Experts are divided over how China might respond, and the U.S. has publicly urged Beijing to abide by the tribunals' decision.

An analysis published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that China's aggressive land reclamation and militarization in the South China Seas might indicate Beijing will eventually escalate the disputes. "Doing so would serve as retaliation against Manila for its refusal to drop the case, could dissuade others like Vietnam and Indonesia from following in the Philippines' footsteps, and would send a message that China will not be bound by the ruling."

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, reacted at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Annual South China Sea conference, calling China's actions a "regional hegemonic dominance for the international crossroads." Sullivan was certain China's endgame is regional dominance because "no one has benefited more from open seas than China."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also commented on the court's ruling saying, "The United States must continue to be clear and consistent in its policy to oppose unilateral actions by any claimant seeking to change the status quo in the South China Sea through the use of coercion, intimidation, unilateral declarations or military force."In light of the findings of this ruling, we expect that the United States Military will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows," he said.Sullivan said China "moves with impunity because the consequences are minimal." The court upheld this narrative, not requiring China to vacate its illegal land claims, citing they believe it was a mistake. David Wilkes contributed to this report.




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