Mark Collins – China Loses South China Sea Arbitration–Calls Decision “political farce”

Further to this post,

South China Sea: Verbal Fire from the Dragon

Beijing reacts exactly as one expected; murky, quite possibly dangerous, seas ahead:

Hague Court Strikes Down Beijing’s South China Sea Claims
In a victory for the Philippines, an international tribunal ruled China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea are illegal, setting the stage for more tension in one of the world’s flashpoints.

An international tribunal delivered a stinging rebuke to China on Tuesday [July 12], ruling unanimously that Beijing has no historic title to the huge swathe of the South China Sea that it claims.

The decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague represents the first explicit, legal repudiation of China’s claims to the waters of the South China Sea, a territorial land grab that has in recent years soured relations between Beijing and many of its neighbors, especially the Philippines. China refused to recognize the tribunal and has repeatedly said that it will ignore the decision, which is binding and not subject to appeal.

The much-awaited decision will almost certainly further inflame tensions in the South China Sea, which has seen frequent clashes between Chinese coast guard ships and fishermen and vessels from other countries. The United States has over the past year sought to uphold international law and freedom of navigation in one of the world’s busiest waterways by dispatching navy ships to sail through waters that Beijing has tried to fence off.

As expected, Beijing dismissed the ruling, reiterating previous arguments questioning the tribunal’s ability to even hear the case. “China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards,” the Chinese government said in a written statement. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed the ruling as a “political farce” and insisted that, despite the decision, Beijing has sovereignty over the islets and waters of the South China Sea.

“Any attempt by any force to undermine or deny in any way China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests will be futile and will fail,” he said.

Wary of China’s reaction to the verdict, the Philippines called for “restraint.”..

State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that Washington supports the rule of law, and that the arbitration panel’s ruling is “final and legally binding on both China and the Philippines. The United States expresses its hope and expectation that both parties will comply with their obligations.”..

In the wake of the ruling by the panel, which China has spent months trying to discredit, experts said Beijing could respond in a variety of ways. It could send more fighter jets to bases it is building on the disputed islets, or it could declare an air defense identification zone in part of the South China Sea, much as it did in 2013 in the East China Sea [see “Chinese ADIZ for South China Sea?“].

China could also ratchet up the fight with the Philippines by carrying out dredging and reclamation work at Scarborough Shoal, one of the features close to the Philippine coast and a reef at the center of the spat between the two countries. Or China could even try to blockade Philippine marines currently stationed at one of the tiny atolls, potentially threatening a showdown with the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty with Manila…

Experts said that China could choose to stop short of provocative action and instead take more incremental steps to signal Beijing was not backing off of its claims. Under that scenario, China would continue to build hangars on artificial islands in the Spratlys and draw boundaries or “baselines” connecting reefs and rocks it claims. That would pave the way for an eventual air defense identification zone in which China would demand all aircraft seek permission before flying into the area.

China’s track record over the past few years suggests it will press on with its aggressive tactics despite the court ruling, and possibly start dredging work at Scarborough Shoal, said James Kraska, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College [more here].

“Unfortunately, if the past is the best indication, it doesn’t look real good in my view,” Kraska told FP. “I just don’t know if the U.S. has enough influence to stop China from doing something they want to do.”..

Quite. Plus a Washington Post headline:

Chinese state media melt down over South China Sea Ruling

An earlier post featuring Prof. Kraska:

South China Sea and International Law:China, US and Australia

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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