Tribunal overwhelmingly rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims

July 12th, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

An arbitration court ruled on Tuesday that China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and has breached the Philippines' sovereign rights with its actions, infuriating Beijing which dismissed the case as a farce.

A defiant China, which boycotted the hearings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, vowed again to ignore the ruling and said its armed forces would defend its sovereignty and maritime interests.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency said shortly before the ruling was announced that a Chinese civilian aircraft had successfully tested two new airports in the disputed Spratly Islands.

And China's Defence Ministry said a new guided missile destroyer was formally commissioned at a naval base on the southern island province of Hainan, which has responsibility for the South China Sea.

"This award represents a devastating legal blow to China's jurisdictional claims in the South China Sea," Ian Storey, of Singapore's ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, told Reuters.

"China will respond with fury, certainly in terms of rhetoric and possibly through more aggressive actions at sea."

The United States, which China has accused of fuelling tensions and militarizing the region with patrols and exercises, urged parties to comply with the legally binding ruling and avoid provocations.

"The decision today by the Tribunal in the Philippines-China arbitration is an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

U.S. officials have previously said they feared China may respond to the ruling by declaring an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013, or by stepping up its building and fortification of artificial islands.

China claims most of the energy-rich waters through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Finding for the Philippines on a number of issues, the panel said there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within its so-called nine-dash line, which covers almost 90 percent of the South China Sea.

It said China had interfered with traditional Philippine fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal and had breached the Philippines' sovereign rights by exploring for oil and gas near the Reed Bank.

None of China's reefs and holdings in the Spratly Islands entitled it to a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, it added.




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