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German expert doubts arbitral court's jurisdiction over South China Sea dispute

The real nature of a dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea is about territorial sovereignty, which is beyond the jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal, a German expert has said.

Stefan Talmon, director of the Institute of Public International Law at the University of Bonn, said in a paper published recently that despite the Philippines' claims about issues such as "traditional fishing rights," the "actual controversy" in the case is about territorial sovereignty.

The Hague-based Arbitral Tribunal on the South China Sea established at the unilateral request of the Philippines has no jurisdiction over the case, as disputes over territorial sovereignty are not governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Talmon said.

The arbitral tribunal will issue a final award on July 12. China has repeatedly said that it will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration.

Talmon also criticized the tribunal for failing to scrutinize the documents referred to by the Philippines in its submission and ignoring China's position before rendering an award on Oct. 29, 2015 when it ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case.

"The tribunal's finding on the true nature of the dispute is based on a misunderstanding of the disputes in the South China Sea," he said, calling the tribunal's award on Oct. 29, 2015 an example of "discounted justice."

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Talmon said the coming award would not help solve the disputes over the South China Sea, but rather have a "counterproductive impact" on the issue.

"There is a danger that the decision will be misused for political purposes and ultimately contribute to the hardening of positions of both sides," he said.

[Source: Xinhua, Berlin, 03Jul16]

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East China Sea Conflict
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