China rejects Philippines bid for UN arbitration over rights to South China Sea

World Today

The Chinese foreign ministry once again made clear that it would not accept or participate in arbitration on the South China Sea dispute initiated by the Philippines. Spokesman Qin Gang said China will react in case of provocation.

Monday was the deadline set by the Permanent Court in The Hague for Beijing to respond to Manila’s filing. Manila, which filed for international arbitration in January 2013, argued that the Chinese claim based on the Nine-Dash Line has no legal basis. The case was the first example of a neighbor challenging China’s territorial claims through international arbitration, and Chinese scholars said the country had no obligation to respond. CCTV’s Han Bin reported.

“The subject matter of the Philippine claims is in essence an issue of territorial sovereignty, which completely goes beyond the scope of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. That’s why the arbitration has no jurisdiction,” Liu Nanlai, the former vice president of Chinese Society of International Law, said.

Liu said that China had officially declared in 2006 that it would not take part in procedures on sovereignty issues, and said the Philippines had violated the law.

“The Convention states clearly to give priority to the self-selection methods over compulsory settlement procedures, and arbitration should be based on the principles of consent by relevant parties,” he said.

China and the Philippines had agreed to resolve disputes through negotiations. Both have signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“China’s claims and relevant rights in the South China Sea have been gradually formed through long history. China has consistently advocated that relevant parties respect historical facts and international laws, so as to resolve the overlapping claims in the region,” Hong Lei, the spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry, said.

The Nine-Dash Line existed prior to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, and has been regarded as a line of ownership. It indicates China’s claims of sovereignty over the islands and reefs within the line.

Many experts believed the arbitration was a political move, coming at a time when the U.S. was emphasizing alliances in the region. They said the disputes have evolved into a geopolitical contest of politics and interests, involving both the claimant and non-claimant states, within and beyond the region.

“The South China Sea issue is highly sensitive and complicated. Resolving territorial disputes through peaceful and bilateral negotiations has been the common practice in the world,” Wu Shicun, the president of National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said. “It’s unbelievable to imagine that any country, especially the big countries, would allow giving the right of resolution to any third party.”

While China wanted to put aside disputes and agree to common exploration, the Philippines insisted on arbitration. But China made clear that it wasn’t going to change its position on the South China Sea, regardless of a tribunal decision. Many believed arbitration would only delay negotiations over the disputed islands.

Zhang Junshe of China’s Naval Research Institute on the South China Sea disputes

For more on South China Sea disputes, CCTV America interviewed Zhang Junshe from Beijing. He’s a senior captain and the vice president of China’s Naval Research Institute.