Bei­jing de­fend­ing global mar­itime or­der

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

HU BO HE Philip­pines’ de­ci­sion to move the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion against China over the South China Sea dis­pute could in­flu­ence the sit­u­a­tion in the re­gion. The tri­bunal will pass its rul­ing on July 12, but China’s solemn stance and coun­ter­mea­sures, the United States’ un­called-for in­ter­ven­tion and some coun­tries’ at­ti­tudes at the G7 Sum­mit and the Con­fer­ence on In­ter­ac­tion and Con­fi­dence-Build­ing Mea­sures in Asia have al­ready fur­ther com­pli­cated the sit­u­a­tion.

The case has drawn global at­ten­tion be­cause The Hague-based tri­bunal has ex­panded its ju­ris­dic­tion to ar­bi­trate in the Bei­jing-Manila dis­pute, which is surely go­ing to af­fect the es­tab­lished rules of nav­i­ga­tion and the seas based on the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea. It could prompt all coastal, and even some land­locked, states to con­sider them­selves as part of the mar­itime dis­pute and, de­pend­ing on their po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions, take sides ei­ther with the US and the Philip­pines, or with China.

In re­sponse to Manila’s uni­lat­eral move, Bei­jing has been re­it­er­at­ing its “non-par­tic­i­pa­tion and nonac­cep­tance” stance, that is, it will nei­ther par­tic­i­pate in the ar­bi­tra­tion nor ac­cept its rul­ing. And con­sid­er­ing the ar­bi­tra­tion tri­bunal’s rul­ing has less bind­ing force than a ver­dict given by the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice or the In­ter­na­tional Tri­bunal for the Law of the Sea, and since Manila doesn’t have any le­gal ba­sis for the case, the ar­bi­tra­tion is not likely to have any di­rect im­pact on China. As such, China will con­tinue to de­fend its ter­ri­to­rial and mar­itime rights in the South China Sea.

The ar­bi­tra­tion case, how­ever, will cre­ate some trou­ble for China on the diplo­matic and public opinion front. The US’ in­ter­ven­tion in and ef­forts to hype up the case seem to have cost China dear in terms of public opinion; some even called China a “bad boy” af­ter it de­clared that it would not ap­pear in court or ac­cept its rul­ing.

TFor Bei­jing, the ar­bi­tra­tion case is not about a le­gal is­sue be­ing dealt by a court but about the neg­a­tive in­flu­ence of the abuse of ar­bi­tra­tion pro­ce­dure by Manila. Some coun­tries covertly sup­port­ing the Philip­pines may not care about the “out­come” of the case, but they should know that whether or not the case is han­dled le­git­i­mately and fairly will in­flu­ence the devel­op­ment of the rules of the sea.

If most of the coun­tries ac­cept the man­ner in which the Philip­pines has han­dled its mar­itime dis­pute with China, then it might be­come the norm for set­tling all mar­itime dis­putes be­tween or among coun­tries-and that would be ex­tremely detri­men­tal to the in­ter­na­tional mar­itime or­der.

China has been con­sis­tently telling the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that there are pro­ce­dural prob­lems with the ar­bi­tra­tion. In a doc­u­ment is­sued in De­cem­ber 2014, China’s For­eign Min­istry said the sovereignty over some is­lands and reefs men­tioned in the case was be­yond the scope of UNCLOS and thus they were not ap­pli­ca­ble to the UN con­ven­tion’s ar­ti­cles.

Be­sides, China has re­peat­edly made it clear that its dis­pute with the Philip­pines should be re­solved through bi­lat­eral talks, which is ex­actly what Chi­naPhilip­pines agree­ments and the Dec­la­ra­tion on the Con­duct of Par­ties in the South China Sea say.

More than 60 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, In­dia, some ASEAN mem­ber states, and some Cen­tral and West Asian na­tions, have agreed with China that the Bei­jing-Manila dis­pute should be set­tled through con­sul­ta­tions and talks. And a com­mu­niqué is­sued by the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion for­eign min­is­ters’ meet­ing re­cently op­posed the “in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of the South China Sea” and called for safe­guard­ing against “in­ter­ven­tions from out­side forces”.

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