US Iraq tricks reused in tribunal award

By Zhang Junshe Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/12 17:17:25

The award of the international arbitration filed by the Philippines on the South China Sea dispute was announced Tuesday, and will cause a surge of tensions in the region, especially between China and the US. Washington, under the disguise of protecting international law and order, has ratcheted up its efforts to pressure China by instigating denunciations in global public discourse and deploying more military forces in and around the South China Sea. Beijing, suspicious of the nature of the arbitral tribunal, has elaborated on its stance, which is non-participation in and non-acceptance of the case, and is determined to safeguard its national interests by employing countermeasures.

From China's perspective, the arbitration is nothing but a farce, engineered and supported by the US for the purpose of containing China. The arbitration, though self-claiming to focus on dispute over maritime rights, cannot avoid concerning territorial ownership and sovereignty issues, which are not included in the jurisdiction of any international arbitral tribunal.

Besides, the proceeding of the arbitration without China's attendance has resulted in a forced and unilateral award. China is being deprived by the US and the Philippines of the right to choose its own way of dealing with international disputes.

The dramatic arbitration is a recurrence of the same trick the US played before it invaded Iraq. The US vilified Iraq for possessing large volumes of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and connections with Al Qaeda.

However, after 13 years, the US has found no sign of WMD on Iraqi soil. In a recent published report by the UK government, the war has been confirmed to be a terrible mistake. Both warmongers of the invasion, former US president George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair, should be charged with war crimes.

This time, the US targets China by painting the country as a challenger of the global order and a rule-breaker of international law and practice. But compared with Iraq, China is a heavyweight and a powerhouse. Besides, it is no longer the collapsing and corrupt country like the lamb to the slaughter it was 150 years ago, and the US should understand China will by no means accept unjust and unequal treaties forced upon it. This is a red line set up by its bitter history.

It is ironic that the biggest rogue disregarding international law is pretending to be a flag bearer in this term. Washington has a blemished record of contempt of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and its decision in the 1986 Nicaragua vs US case. The ICJ ruled that the US had violated international law by supporting rebels in Nicaragua and mining Nicaragua's harbors. The US refused to participate in the case and blocked the enforcement of the judgment by the UN Security Council. Despite the veneer of international law, the US actually believes in nothing but "might makes right."

As a non-signatory of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the US groundlessly demands China comply with the Convention. Although vowing to protect freedom of navigation from China, the US cannot find one example of China blocking international waterways in the South China Sea. Without a proper capacity and a convincing cause, the US' interference in the arbitration simply serves its rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific strategy.

As a pawn and puppet in this farce, the Philippines needs to realize that it might be the biggest victim of the Sino-US power game. The country's new President Rodrigo Duterte has intention to draw back, stating that the Philippines is willing to negotiate with China even if the award is in its favor.

It is a good sign that Manila is re-calibrating its former dangerous approach. But it should understand that China won't engage in any talks with the Philippines on the basis of the award.

Bilateral negotiations are a commonly agreed method of dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea. If there are any talks, China and the Philippines need to go back to square one and rearrange the structure of negotiation.

Even though tensions might escalate after the arbitration, only maniacs would start a war between China and the US because of the South China Sea. However, all parties must exercise more restraint in the current circumstance, especially the US, which is increasingly upping the ante.

The author is a research fellow at the China Naval Research Institute.

Posted in: Viewpoint, South China Sea Focus

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