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Beijing Rejects South China Sea Case Ahead of July 12 Ruling
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said on Wednesday that it would announce its rulings in a contentious case between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea on July 12.
The landmark case centers on the Philippine government's argument that China's claims over much of the sea, a strategic waterway in the western Pacific, are illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Philippines initiated the case in 2013 after China seized Scarborough Shoal, an atoll that the Philippines administered and that was a favorite fishing ground for Filipino fishermen.
A special five-member tribunal established by the court in 2013 will also decide on the size of maritime zones around rocks and reefs in the Spratly archipelago off the Philippine coast. It will also rule on whether China has caused environmental damage in constructing an artificial island at Mischief Reef.
China has refused to participate in the proceedings, saying that the tribunal has no jurisdiction, and has insisted that it will ignore its rulings.
The tribunal is not considering questions of sovereignty, and which country owns what islands, reefs and atolls in the sea will remain unresolved by the decision. China and nearly half a dozen countries in Southeast Asia have long disputed ownership of various tiny specks in the waterway.
In a statement, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late Wednesday that it would reject any decision by the tribunal.
"China does not accept any means of third-party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China," a ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said. "The Chinese government will continue to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and will continue to work with states directly concerned to resolve the relevant disputes in the South China Sea through negotiation and consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law, so as to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.'
The case has become a diplomatic tussle between China and the United States, an ally of the Philippines. China has mounted a global effort to round up countries to support its position that the tribunal represents outside interference in a dispute between the Philippines and China.
The Obama administration has encouraged China to abide by the tribunal's ruling and has asked European and Asian countries to speak out in favor of it. The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
"Consistent with our longstanding policy, we support the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, including the use of international legal mechanisms such as arbitration," the State Department said on Wednesday.
The court made its announcement on the eve of the inauguration of the new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte. His predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, took a hard line against China by initiating the arbitration after talks between the two countries failed. Mr. Duterte has adopted a friendlier attitude toward China.
[Source: By Jane Perlez, International New York Times, Beijing, 30Jun16]
East China Sea Conflict
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