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Int'l experts criticize Hague arbitration tribunal over South China Sea

International experts criticized an arbitral tribunal with widely contested jurisdiction for its plan to issue an award on July 12 on the South China Sea case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.

The government of outgoing Philippine President Benigno Aquino III filed the arbitration against China in 2013, despite the agreement his country had reached with China on resolving their South China Sea disputes through bilateral negotiations.

China has refused to participate in the proceedings or recognize the verdict, since the tribunal in The Hague established at the unilateral request of the Philippines, has no jurisdiction over the case that in essence is related to territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation.

China: The Tribunal Has No Jurisdiction

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday that the tribunal, "established on the basis of illegal conduct and claims of the Philippines," has no jurisdiction over the case and the relevant subject matter, and should not have heard the case or render any award.

China and the Philippines have agreed to settle disputes in the South China Sea through bilateral negotiations; territorial issues are not subject to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and that as early as in 2006 China declared — in line with UNCLOS — to exclude disputes concerning maritime delimitation from mandatory dispute settlement procedures. And the Philippines failed to fulfill its obligation under UNCLOS to exchange views with China on means of dispute settlement.

Therefore, China's nonacceptance and nonparticipation stance is solidly founded in international law, and the tribunal has exceeded its jurisdiction at will and infringed on the right of a state party to UNCLOS to choose means of dispute settlement of its own will, Hong noted.

"With regard to territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third-party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China," he stressed.

Experts: Manila's Initiation "Catastrophic"

The Philippines' call for arbitration is a "catastrophic mistake" and an undisguised disregard for good neighborly relations, said Vladimir Djukanovic, a member of the Serbian National Assembly, on Wednesday.

Djukanovic noted that the move aims to prolong the process of finding a solution to this dispute and help the United States maintain its influence on trade in the South China Sea.

Djukanovic also accused the United States of trying to "suppress Chinese interests everywhere they can — whether here in the Balkans or the South China Sea. They will intensively do all in their power to weaken the influence of ... China because they watch for their own interests."

Manila will "gain nothing in the end," he added.

Iran's Islamic Motalefeh Party said in a statement Wednesday that "based on the international agreements and conventions, the People's Republic of China is entitled not to allow any violation of its territorial sovereignty."

Mehdi Soli, the party's international deputy, also criticized the U.S. unacceptable "maritime and aerial patrolling in the territorial waters of other states," which has become the source of tension among the regional states.

"The intervention of nonregional powers is not acceptable in this regard," and Washington should "refrain from ... violating the sovereignty of the countries" and "avoid provocative measures to inflame the differences," the party added.

"When two countries are at odds over a certain issue, they should firstly resort to direct talks and dialogue," which is the only means to settle the disputes over the South China Sea, the statement stressed.

Serbia's Djukanovic also stressed that all open issues should be resolved bilaterally without involvement of a third party, adding that the Philippines is unwise to "act on behalf of the United States in this case."

"It's always best for neighbors to sit down and talk, and this is the way to solve their open issues," he said.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 30Jun16]

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East China Sea Conflict
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