South China Sea arbitration is a farce

Source: China Military OnlineEditor: Yao Jianing
2016-06-20 17:16

BEIJING, June 20 (ChinaMil) -- The South China Sea arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in January 2013 is a farce self-directed and performed by the Philippines.

China's successful recovery of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea and exercise of sovereignty over them is an integral part of the post-WWII international order.

China has indisputable sovereignty over those islands. China was the first country to discover, name, explore and manage the South China Sea islands, and Japan illegally seized a lot of Chinese territory during the WWII, including those islands.

After the end of the WWII, China recovered those islands and resumed the exercise of sovereignty over them according to a series of documents of international law. These are undeniable facts well recorded and evidenced by historical documents.

Although the Philippines tried hard to "disguise" the arbitration case as a matter of interpretation or application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it essentially attempted to deny China's sovereignty over the South China Sea islands, and the arbitration was just a show of "true lies" aimed to cover the fact that it had illegally seized Chinese islands and reefs.

Therefore, the Chinese government issued a position paper on the matter of jurisdiction in South China Sea arbitration initiated by the Philippines in December 2014, in which it fully elaborated the principles and position of the Chinese government.

Being a farce directed and performed by the Philippines itself, the arbitration fully demonstrated the initiator's perfidy.

First, it violated the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. In 2002, China and the ten member states of ASEAN officially signed the Declaration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in which paragraph 4 explicitly stated, “the Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea."

However, the Philippines broke its commitment in the Declaration and tramped upon the common efforts made by relevant countries to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Second, it violated the understanding reached by the governments of China and the Philippines for a long time, which was to address the South China Sea disputes through friendly consultation.

When President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines visited China on September 1, 2011, the two countries issued a joint statement that stated "leaders of both countries reiterated their commitment to addressing the disputes through peaceful dialogue, continuing to preserve regional peace, security and stability, and creating a favorable environment for economic growth. Both sides reaffirmed their commitments to respecting and abiding by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN member countries in 2002."

We cannot help but ask if a sovereignty nation breaks its words like this and breaches its commitment at will, is it still creditable in the international community?

Third, it violated relevant principles of the UNLCOS, namely the premise of arbitration is that all political and diplomatic means have been exhausted, but the fact is that China and the Philippines had kept communication on the South China Sea issue.

The arbitration was a unilateral compulsory action on the Philippines' part. The fact that it submitted the indictment to the arbitral tribunal without any prior communication with China exposed its ulterior motive.

China's decision of non-acceptance and non-participation was based on international law. According to the right granted by the UNCLOS, China filed a declaration in 2006, which excluded disputes concerning maritime delimitation, historic bays or titles, military and law enforcement activities from compulsory arbitration and other compulsory dispute settlement procedures.

It was a choice enjoyed by all sovereign nations, and about 30 countries in the world have made the same choice. In addition to China, other permanent members of the UN Security Council such as Britain, France and Russia have also filed such declarations, while the U.S. hasn't joined the UNCLOS yet.

In sum, the arbitration is neither well-grounded nor justified. Whatever the arbitration award will be, it won't affect China's sovereignty over South China Sea islands, or whitewash the Philippines' illegal occupation of China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

China's action to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and lawful rights and interests is righteous, and its efforts to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea are justified. Any attempt to force, pressure or accuse it and damage China’s sovereign rights and interests will be doomed.

Justice will prevail. Any individual and country would understand and support China's righteous position on the South China Sea issue as long as they harbor no selfish political aim and know the historical trajectory of that issue.

As a matter of fact, more and more countries and international organizations understand and support China's commitment to settling the disputes with concerned countries through negotiation and consultation according to bilateral agreements and regional consensus, object to interfere in the issue by countries outside the region, and acknowledge China's efforts to preserve peace and stability in the region.

Their stance fully reflects the objective and fair position upheld by the international community and complies with the general international practices of settling disputes through negotiation and consultation. I believe more countries will join the circle of friends that support China.

The author is Ruan Zongze, vice president and researcher of China Institute of International Studies.

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