International Tribunal Rejects China’s Claim on Sea

IAS Prelims 2023

A tribunal ruled that China has no legal basis for its vast claims in the South China Sea and had aggravated the seething regional dispute with its extensive construction of artificial islands that destroyed coral reefs and infringed on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

A five judge tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued their award in a suit brought by the Philippines disputing Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

Here are some key elements from ruling:

> That China has no “historic title” over the waters of the South China Sea.

> Specifically, that the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea supercedes China’s “Nine-dash line” – its 69-year-old claim to roughly 85 percent of the South China Sea.

> That none of the features of the Spratly Islands off the Philippines’ west coast give China any right to an exclusive economic zone.

> That China has interfered with traditional Philippines fishing rights, notably at Scarborough Shoal.

> That Chinese oil exploration near Reed Bank violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights.

> That China damaged parts of the ecosystem of the Spratly Islands with activities such as overfishing and creating artificial islands.

> That China’s actions have aggravated its conflict with the Philippines at a time it was meant to be resolving them.

China immediately rejected the arbitration findings.

While the ruling cannot reverse China’s actions, it still constitutes a rebuke, carrying with it the force of the international community’s opinion.

China and the Philippines are among the six governments that have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, waters through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through each year.

The Philippines, under a U.N. treaty governing the seas, asked in 2013 for arbitration.