Islands, not rocks: China rejects arbitration ruling

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2016 07:00 PM

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (right) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981, in the South China Sea Photo by Nguyen Minh, Reuters

MANILA - China's Foreign Ministry rejected Tuesday the ruling of an international arbitration court that nixed Beijing's claims to economic rights across large swathes of the South China Sea. 

In its ruling, judges at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague said there was no legal basis for China to "claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line.'"

Judges also found that Chinese law enforcement patrols had risked colliding with Philippine fishing vessels in parts of the sea and caused irreparable damage to coral reefs with construction work.

In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China said the award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration "is null and void and has no binding force. China neither accepts nor recognizes it."

Beijing said that by unilaterally initiating arbitration proceedings on the South China Sea dispute, the Philippine government had breached the agreement between the two states, violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and went against the general practice of international arbitration.

"The unilateral initiation of arbitration by the Philippines is out of bad faith. It aims not to resolve the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines, or to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, but to deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea," it said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also noted that the subject-matter of the arbitration initiated by the Philippines "is in essence an issue of territorial sovereignty over some islands and reefs of Nansha Qundao (the Nansha Islands), and inevitably concerns and cannot be separated from maritime delimitation between China and the Philippines."

This runs counter to the arbitration tribunal's ruling that "all of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands (including, for example, Itu Aba, Thitu, West York Island, Spratly Island, North-East Cay, South-West Cay) are legally 'rocks' that do not generate an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf."

China noted the Arbitral Tribunal "disregards the fact that the essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration initiated by the Philippines is issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, erroneously interprets the common choice of means of dispute settlement already made jointly by China and the Philippines, erroneously construes the legal effect of the relevant commitment in the DOC [Declaration of Conduct of Parties in South China Sea], deliberately circumvents the optional exceptions declaration made by China under Article 298 of UNCLOS, selectively takes relevant islands and reefs out of the macro-geographical framework of Nanhai Zhudao (the South China Sea Islands), subjectively and speculatively interprets and applies UNCLOS, and obviously errs in ascertaining facts and applying the law."

"China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea shall under no circumstances be affected by those awards. China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards," it said.