Bei­jing im­mune to Manila’s ar­bi­tra­tion

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - YANG ZEWEI

BEI­JING—An ar­bi­tral tri­bunal with widely con­tested ju­ris­dic­tion will is­sue a rul­ing on July 12 on the South China Sea case uni­lat­er­ally ini­ti­ated by the Philip­pines, the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion (PCA) in The Hague said.

Ro­drigo Duterte, the pres­i­dent-elect of the Philip­pines has sent sig­nals that China and the Philip­pines de­serve bet­ter ties. But to en­sure that bi­lat­eral ties im­prove, Duterte has to take a new ap­proach to Manila’s dis­putes with Bei­jing in the South China Sea, es­pe­cially be­cause the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion’s rul­ing on the ar­bi­tra­tion case uni­lat­er­ally filed by Manila will fur­ther de­te­ri­o­rate China-Philip­pines re­la­tions.

Ir­re­spec­tive of what The Hague-based court says, how­ever, the rul­ing will not have any im­pact on China.

Com­pli­cated as they ap­pears to be, the South China Sea dis­putes be­tween Bei­jing and Manila are es­sen­tially about ter­ri­to­rial claims and mar­itime de­lim­i­ta­tion, which are be­yond the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion.

The Philip­pines has il­le­gally laid claim on some reefs and islets of China’s Nan­sha Is­lands, in­clud­ing Zhongye Is­land, since the 1970s, and re­named them “Kalayaan Is­land Group”.

It also op­poses China’s in­her­ent sovereignty over Huangyan Is­land, which it used to call “Scar­bor­ough Shoal”. But these dis­putes are nei­ther re­flected in the Philip­pines’ ar­bi­tra­tion nor re­lated to the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea.

In 2006, China ex­er­cised its right un­der Ar­ti­cle 298 of UN­C­LOS by mak­ing a dec­la­ra­tion ex­clud­ing com­pul­sory ar­bi­tra­tion; more than 30 coun­tries have made sim­i­lar dec­la­ra­tions.

In other words, Bei­jing’s re­fusal to ac­cept or par­tic­i­pate in the so-called ar­bi­tra­tion is in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law, whereas Manila’s uni­lat­eral be­hav­ior is un­law­ful and un­rea­son­able.

For decades, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been mak­ing ef­forts to main­tain peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion while try­ing to re­solve dis­putes through ne­go­ti­a­tions and con­sul­ta­tions be­tween the states that have ter­ri­to­rial or mar­itime dis­putes with Bei­jing.

The suc­cess­ful mar­itime de­lim­i­ta­tion of Beibu Bay with Viet­nam in 2000 is a case in point. As for China and the Philip­pines, their ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes should be ad­dressed peace­fully by the two sides them­selves through con­sul­ta­tion and ne­go­ti­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 4 of the Con­duct of Par­ties in the South China Sea, which was agreed in 2002.

Their joint state­ment on the South China Sea is­sue in 1995, too, makes sim­i­lar propo­si­tions, which means the ar­bi­tra­tion case uni­lat­er­ally filed by Manila is a vi­o­la­tion of the in­ter­na­tional law.

In ad­di­tion, the rul­ing of the ar­bi­tra­tion court will not be legally bind­ing on the Bei­jing-Manila dis­putes over ter­ri­to­rial claims and mar­itime de­lim­i­ta­tion in the South China Sea, sim­ply be­cause the Manila has not moved the court on the dis­putes. China dis­cov­ered and named the is­lands in the South China Sea about 2,000 years ago.

Its ter­ri­to­rial rights are clearly de­clared by the Dec­la­ra­tion of the Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China on the Ter­ri­to­rial Sea of 1958 and the Law of the Peo­ple’ s Repub­lic of China on the Ter­ri­to­rial Sea and the Con­tigu­ous Zone of 1992. These two doc­u­ments make it clear that Dong­sha Is­lands, Xisha Is­lands, Zhong­sha Is­lands and Nan­sha Is­lands be­long to China, and there­fore will legally nul­lify the ar­bi­tra­tion court’s rul­ing.

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