International Court Rejects China’s South China Sea Claims

An international tribunal dismissed every foundation of China’s aggressive claims to sovereignty over virtually all of the South China Sea, ruling July 12 that none of the disputed rocks and reefs were habitable islands that could produce legal territorial rights over the surrounding waters and that any history right China may have had to the potentially resource-rich sea was nullified with its signature on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled favorably on 14 of the Philippines’ arguments in its dispute with China over several barely visible rocky outcroppings. Although China’s immediate response was to repeat its declaration that the court had no jurisdiction over its dispute with the Philippines, legal and political authorities at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum Tuesday in Washington, D.C., suggested the unexpectedly broad ruling could create the opportunity to defuse the increasingly militarized disputes between China and the other nations bordering the sea. Gregory Poling, an Asian scholar at CSIS, said the court’s finding that China’s signature on UNCLOS eliminated its historic rights to the South China Sea, based on the self-proclaimed “nine-dash line.” (Read the ruling; Caution, large-sized file.)