Tribunal arbitration escalates sea tensions

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/1 0:28:01

An international tribunal based in The Hague announced Wednesday that the result of the South China Sea dispute arbitration will be issued on July 12. Immediately, the Chinese foreign ministry reaffirmed its position of not accepting or participating in the arbitration process. The Philippines accused China of creating a lawless situation, and the US also stood out to impose more pressure on China.

China has been in a disadvantaged position since the arbitration case was filed by the Philippines in 2013. Manila is playing the sympathy card, and the Western world keeps propagating the spirit of law in the case, and denouncing China for flouting the tribunal.

Their narrative has managed to distort the true image of the case, which is actually a trap schemed by the US, led by the Philippines, and coordinated by the tribunal.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has clarified that it has no jurisdiction over territorial disputes and maritime demarcation.

China has also publicly exempted itself from any forced arbitration over territorial sovereignty and maritime demarcation. China's exemption has been recognized by the UNCLOS. However, the Philippines took a tricky detour and requested the tribunal to arbitrate between the Philippines and China on maritime rights, which in fact serves its ultimate purpose: territorial claims.

Thus, the tribunal's involvement goes against the principles of the convention, and it will only escalate the tensions in the South China Sea.

The case has been distorted, and addressing territorial disputes in the process of arbitration becomes a legal approach, and China's territorial claim has been deemed as a violation of international law. The misunderstanding has gained the upper hand.

What's even worse, the US is using the leverage to project more power in the Sea. The verdict on July 12 might be a watershed incident, after which more complications will emerge in the South China Sea, and it will be more difficult to find common ground.

We hope the worst scenario can be avoided. The tribunal should understand the serious consequences if it cozies up to the Philippines' appeal, and try everything it can to make sure the award won't be misused in the future.

Meanwhile, the change of government in the Philippines seems to be a silver lining to end the farce. President Rodrigo Duterte is much more realistic than his predecessor, and he is expected to do more to reduce the negative impact of the verdict. ASEAN countries should also contribute to the easing of tensions if they don't misuse the verdict.

Above all, the US is still the biggest uncertainty in the South China Sea dispute.

If the US is determined to contain China in the South China Sea, the Philippines will hardly shake off being a puppet of the US. If so, China will have no choice but to face up to the challenge.

Posted in: Editorial

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