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FM rejects South China Sea arbitration

2014-12-08 08:49 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

China on Sunday reiterated that it rejects and will not participate in an international arbitration initiated by the Philippines over the matter of China's jurisdiction in the South China Sea by citing substantial and solid legal grounds.

In a position paper released Sunday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China elaborated at length on its long-existing stance against compulsory arbitration proceedings filed by the Philippines in January 2013 to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

The document was released a week before the arbitration court's December 15 deadline for China to respond to the case.

Territorial sovereignty is beyond the scope of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is the essence of the subject matter of this arbitration, hence the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction over the issue, said the paper.

In 2006, China deposited a declaration with the UN, stating that the Chinese government does not accept any of the compulsory settlement procedures, including arbitration, provided for in the Convention with respect to disputes concerning maritime delimitation, among other issues.

China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters for being the first country ever to discover and name them, and has been developing the islands for over 2,000 years, said the paper.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has illegally occupied, explored and exploited resources in the potentially oil-rich waters only since the 1970s, the paper stated.

The Philippine government will study China's paper and may issue a response later, Charles Jose, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs said in Manila, the Associated Press reported.

"The paper is China's move to state clearly its stance to the international community. By establishing China's own narrative response, it can be used to balance the narrative angles by the international media. It can also prevent the Philippines from using the opportunity [of international arbitration] to defame China," Fu Kuncheng, an international law expert with Xiamen University, Fujian Province, told the Global Times Sunday.

Fu said China's rejection of arbitration is in line with international law, as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that signatory nations have the right to refuse to attend tribunals.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has abused the ordinances in the UN convention by unilaterally submitting the dispute to compulsory arbitration, the paper said.

"With no legally binding force attached to the arbitration application, China will not waste its money to play along with the Philippines' game," said Fu.

Fu's points are echoed by Wu Shicun, director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Hainan Province.

"China has made clear that it will not participate in the arbitration, but that doesn't equate to silence. It has presented substantial legal grounds to support its firm stance," Wu told the Global Times.

The timing of the paper has nothing to do with the December 15 deadline, as it is neither a plea negotiation nor a response at the Arbitral Tribunal's request, said Xu Hong, head of the ministry's legal and treaties department.

Xu added that publishing the document demonstrates China's efforts to secure and promote international law.

China has repeatedly rejected international arbitration with the Philippines over its territorial claims in the South China Sea. Earlier in November, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged during the East Asia Summit in Cambodia that the disputes should be settled using a dual-track approach, wherein disputes are to be solved through one-on-one negotiations between the countries directly concerned.

The Sunday document restates China's stance that bilateral negotiations are the most direct, effective and common way to solve disputes among countries and approved by the international law.

China and the Philippines have previously agreed to settle territorial disputes through negotiations in the 2002 declaration of conduct on maritime behavior, signed by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

But the Philippines has breached its previous promises, said Wu, diverting the core of the issue from its illegal claims over the disputed waters by filing the case for international arbitration.

Both Fu and Wu pointed out that the US will continue to cast its influence on the South China Sea disputes, supporting the Philippines to press with its claim for international arbitration.

But their moves are not likely to be supported by the international community, said Fu, as countries like Thailand, South Korea, Russia, Italy and France have agreed with China's stance to solve territorial disputes through bilateral talks.

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