The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration sent a gift to the Philippines on Thursday, ruling that it has jurisdiction over the case filed by the Philippines against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The Chinese foreign ministry on Friday said that the ruling is null and void, and has no binding effect on China.
China has been rejecting the Hague-based court’s authority in this case since Manila filed the case in 2013. Some people in the West accused China of despising international law. But they have ignored that China is actually doing so in accordance with the rights given by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China ratified UNCLOS about 20 years ago. Following Article 298 of UNCLOS, China in 2006 handed in a written document, stating it will not accept international arbitration over sovereignty disputes. So far 58 countries have made similar statements, including South Korea.
The Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling ignored China’s legal rights and the fact that the case involves territorial sovereignty and maritime demarcation. It also ignored China and the Philippines’ bilateral and multilateral agreements to solve the disputes through negotiations.
The ruling could become an excuse for those who try to worsen the disputes in the South China Sea and cause tension.
UNCLOS’s aim is to avoid forceful intervention. The best solution to territorial disputes is negotiation between the disputing parties.
If the Arbitral Tribunal always decide to expand its power to intervene in such affairs at the request of one side, it will only start a system that may trigger more disputes. This is not what UNCLOS was created for.
China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea territories was formed over a long period of time, and has been upheld by various administrations. With ample historical and legal backing, China will not accept any plans over its sovereignty rights forced upon it by other parties.
The Arbitral Tribunal should be clear about China’s stance as well as the complexity and risks involved in the South China Sea disputes.
However, the court made a ruling with one-sided influence from the Philippines. It is against the spirit of international law. It also hurts the authority of UNCLOS.
If an international judicial institution twists and abuses the law, how can it shoulder the responsibility to safeguard peace and justice?
Manila knows the Hague will not be able to solve its problem with China. In the end Manila will still have to sit down face-to-face with Beijing to find solutions. The US warship’s patrol in the South China Sea and the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling are all smokescreens to fool the world.