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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 July 13 - 19  > South China Sea issue should be settled in accordance with PCA ruling
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2016 July 13 - 19 TOP3 [WORLD]
editorial 

South China Sea issue should be settled in accordance with PCA ruling

July 14, 2016
Akahata editorial

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled on July 12 that China’s claim to the better part of the South China Sea has no legal basis in light of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The ruling also denied the legitimacy of Beijing’s activities in the waters such as reclamation and creation of artificial islands. This is the first decision handed down by the international tribunal over the issue of the South China Sea.

This ruling, giving a clear decision on China’s unilateral actions and a guideline on the geographical features in the disputed areas, holds great significance as a recognized legal foundation for resolving the conflict.

China insisted that it has historically exercised exclusive jurisdiction over the waters within its so-called “nine-dash line”, which covers much of the South China Sea. The ruling, however, completely rejects this claim, stating that there is “no legal basis” for Beijing’s claim.

Noting that the reefs forming the Spratly Islands are all inhospitable rocks and low-tide elevations, the court concluded that those features generate no exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The court judgment also recognizes that a part of the created artificial islands is in the Philippines’ EEZ and that the reclamation work accompanied by environmental destruction constitutes an illegal act.

The court decision goes on to point out that Beijing breached its obligation to refrain from taking action that may escalate disputes during arbitration proceedings.

China showed its stance of neither accepting nor recognizing the PCA ruling, insisting that it is “null and void” and “not binding”. As a reason for its rejection, Beijing maintains that the essence of the arbitration is the issue of territorial sovereignty and delimitation. However, as the ruling states, the trial had carefully avoided intervening in such issues.

As the legal foundation for solving the problem, the PCA ruling is final and legally binding.

China and the Philippines should accept and abide by this ruling, which will be the key to settle the current disputes in the South China Sea.

China is a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which seeks to establish legal order. If following the convention’s stipulations, the Chinese government should have no choice but to accept the international tribunal’s ruling.

Regarding the issues about which the ruling made judgement, the Japanese Communist Party has always held a clear stance.

The JCP has pointed out that China’s construction of artificial islands and large runways on the Spratly Islands and the deployment of missiles and fighter jets on the Paracel Islands clearly violate stipulations in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was concluded by China and ASEAN countries. The JCP demanded that Beijing stop unilaterally making changes in the existing conditions and carrying out actions which will heighten military tensions in the South China Sea.

Earlier this month, the JCP urged China to halt its military exercises in the South China Sea on the grounds that it goes against the DOC.

Parties concerned should respect the ruling

The PCA touches on what should be addressed in solving the problems.

The ruling states, “The root of the disputes […] lies not in any intention on the part of China or the Philippines to infringe on the legal rights of the other, but rather—as has been apparent throughout these proceedings—in fundamentally different understandings of their respective rights under the Convention in the waters of the South China Sea.” Therefore, the two countries should respect the ruling and stand on the same legal footing, which is essential to bring about resolution of the disputes. This is an important message to concerned parties that the PCA incorporated in the ruling.
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