On July 12th, an Arbitral Tribunal, put together on a temporary basis, issued a so-called award on the South China Sea arbitration, which was unilaterally initiated by the former government of the Philippines, in an attempt to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. Responding to such a move, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement affirming China’s staunch position of non-acceptance and non-recognition of the award. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry was also given authorization to issue the Statement of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on China’s Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights and Interests in the South China Sea to solemnly reaffirm China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. It is on those bases that I elaborate on China’s proposition as follows.
First, the South China Sea arbitration is completely a political farce staged under legal pretext. Such a nature must be exposed for everyone to see.
Plotted and manipulated by certain forces outside the region, the former government of the Philippines unilaterally initiated the arbitration with no consent of the other party. Such an act ran counter to the agreement previously reached between the two sides to resolve disputes through bilateral negotiation and consultation. It also violated the commitment the Philippines made in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Its purpose is clearly not to seek proper settlement of disputes with China, but to violate China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests and put peace and stability in the South China Sea in jeopardy. The arbitration was conducted according to unwarranted procedure and application of law, and was based on flawed evidence and facts. Such as it is, it will never be accepted by the Chinese people. Nor will it be recognized by anyone in the world who stands on the side of justice.
Second, China’s position of non-acceptance and non-participation is aimed at upholding international rule of law and rules of the region.
According to international law, each country has the right to choose on its own will the means of dispute settlement. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) gives the State Parties the right to exclude relevant disputes from the application of compulsory dispute settlement procedures. The DOC signed by China and the ten ASEAN countries manifestly stipulates that relevant disputes should be resolved by countries directly concerned through dialogue and negotiation. China’s non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is solidly based on international law, and is consistent with the norms and rules of the international law of the sea. China is acting in strict accordance with the law.
The award given by the Arbitral Tribunal violates China’s lawful rights. It challenges the norms of international law, including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. It undermines the sanctity and integrity of the system of international law of the sea, and has a negative impact on the rules of the region established on the basis of the DOC. The establishment of the Arbitral Tribunal has no legitimacy and the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case. The award is clearly out of the Arbitral Tribunal’s acts of self-expansion of power and ultra vires, and has no legal effect.
I want to point out that more and more countries in the world as well as people with vision have expressed concerns and doubt about the case, especially legal experts worldwide. Over 60 countries have publicly expressed their understanding and support for China’s position. These are voices of justice that the international community should well listen to.
Third, China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are based on solid historical and legal ground. They shall not be affected by the award of the Arbitral Tribunal.
The statement issued today by the Chinese government reaffirmed once again China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. They include, inter alia:
China has sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao (the South China Sea Islands); China has internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf based on its sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao; and China has historic rights in the South China Sea.
I must stress that China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are not new claims. These, including the dotted line, have been formed in the long course of history, and have been upheld by the successive Chinese governments. Any attempt by any force to undermine or deny in any way China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests will be futile and will fail. On issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, China will not accept any means of third-party dispute settlement without China’s prior consent or any imposed solution. This temporary tribunal, unjust and highly controversial, does not stand for international law, the rule of law or equity and justice in the world.
Fourth, China will remain committed to peaceful settlement of disputes through consultation and negotiation, and will continue to work for peace and stability in this region.
China is a contributor to global order and regional peace. China will stay committed to peaceful settlement of disputes with parties directly concerned through negotiation and consultation and in accordance with international law. China is committed to upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all other countries under international law. China is committed to the full and effective implementation of the DOC, and will work to advance the consultations on a Code of Conduct within the framework of the DOC.
The arbitration and the out-of-bad-faith dramatization and political manipulation that ensued have put the South China Sea issue to a dangerous situation, with growing tension and confrontation. It is detrimental to peace and stability in the region, and it does not serve the common interests of China and the Philippines, countries in the region or the wider international community. Now the farce is over. It is time that things come back to normal.
China has noted the latest statements by the new government of the Philippines, including its readiness to re-open consultation and dialogue with China on the South China Sea issue. China hopes that the goodwill of the new Philippine government for improving relations with China will be accompanied with real actions, and that the Philippine side will work with us to properly manage differences and bring China-Philippines relations back to the track of healthy development at an early date.
Finally, I wish to reiterate that it is China’s long-standing commitment to grow good-neighborly and friendly relations with its neighbors. China has an international responsibility to uphold peace and stability in this region, and China will remain firm in its strategic determination to pursue peaceful development. China will continue to do what it can to safeguard the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and the basic norms governing international relations, to uphold international rule of law and equity and justice in the world, and to promote peace and development of mankind.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are solely the author's and do not represent those of the Lithuania Tribune or its staff.