CHINA / DIPLOMACY
China will not negotiate with Philippines based on arbitration ruling
Published: Jul 10, 2016 04:47 PM
China will not negotiate with the Philippines on the basis of any ruling in the case of arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines against China on South China Sea disputes, regardless of whether it will be "in favor of the Philippines."

The new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, recently said that Manila is ready to talk to China if the South China Sea arbitration tribunal rules in the Philippines' favor on July 12.

Some western media including Britain's Financial Times also suggested China to start negotiating with the Philippines on the thorny issue on the basis of the arbitration ruling.

However, all these sayings are just a euphemistic suggestion that China should accept the arbitration ruling first then negotiate, which is in direct contradiction to China's stand of neither participating in, nor accepting the arbitration, and neither recognizing, nor honoring the award.

However, that does not necessarily mean China will always close the door of bilateral negotiations with the Philippine government, as since the 1980s, China has always been holding the position of using bilateral talks to resolve disputes, but the upcoming illegal arbitration ruling won't be the precondition or basis for any negotiation.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on June 8 issued a statement reiterating that the door of China-Philippines bilateral negotiations is always open, and "China will remain committed to settling through negotiation the relevant disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international laws."

Yet there's a precondition to this statement, that is, "on issues concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, China never accepts any recourse to third party settlement, or any means of dispute settlement that is imposed on it."

China has always been devoted to making the South China Sea a sea of peace, cooperation and friendship. While firmly safeguarding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, China adheres to the position of settling disputes through negotiation and consultation with states directly concerned. This has always been China's policy, and it will never change.

According to Zhu Feng, director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, in order to create a suitable condition for China and the Philippines to settle the disputes through pragmatic cooperation, the new Duterte government needs to refrain itself from hyping the arbitration ruling, not rely on the ruling as its only basis for settling the disputes, and actively improve bilateral relations.

"The most expected action from the Duterte government on the settlement of the South China Sea disputes would be to drop the case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague," said Zhu.
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