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CHINA INTENSIFIES OPPOSITION AHEAD OF SOUTH CHINA SEA RULING
[RELATED: Pentagon says Hague ruling to determine Asia-Pacific's future]


JULY 11 - In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat circles a Filipino fishing boat near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Renato Etac via AP, File China has intensified the drumbeat of its opposition to an international tribunal's ruling expected Tuesday that could threaten its expansive claims in the South China Sea.China has intensified the drumbeat of its opposition to an international tribunal’s ruling expected Tuesday that could threaten its expansive claims in the South China Sea. How Beijing responds to the ruling in the case filed by U.S. ally the Philippines could chart the course of global power relations in an increasingly dangerous hotspot. It comes as the U.S. has ramped up its military presence in the region and could seek to marshal world opinion to pressure Beijing into complying with the verdict. A new Philippine leader who appears friendlier to Beijing could also influence the aftermath of the ruling. The Hague-based tribunal will decide on the 2013 case that challenges the so-called nine-dash line that China uses to claim virtually the entire South China Sea and which Manila opposes because it infringes upon its own 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The dispute centers on waters through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through each year and are home to rich fishing stocks and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other resources. The Philippines has also asked the tribunal to rule on whether several disputed areas are outcrops, reefs or islands, a move aimed at clarifying the extent of territorial waters they are entitled to or if they can project exclusive economic zones. More than merely about the sovereignty over the rocks and reefs or the actual waters, the South China Sea dispute has become a testing ground for a rising China to challenge the U.S.’s leadership in the Asian strategic order, analysts say. Beijing wants to use this dispute to show how “China’s own growing maritime power and its economic significance to the United States and the global economy have reached the point where the United States can no longer afford to stand up to China,” said Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at The Australian National University. “That calculation might prove to be wrong.” READ MORE...RELATED, Pentagon says Hague ruling to determine Asia-Pacific's future...

ALSO: Beijing says should be no South China Sea talk at Asia-Europe summit
[RELATED: France offers to ease tension on maritime disputes]
[RELATED(2): Picking sides: A world of opinions on South China Sea]



JULY 11 -A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Reuters/Nguyen Minh/File
The South China Sea is not on the agenda and should not be discussed at a major summit between Asian and European leaders in Mongolia at the end of the week, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday. The Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, will be the first important multilateral diplomatic gathering after the July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing a dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea. Tensions and rhetoric have been rising ahead of the ruling in the Dutch city of The Hague, a case which China has refused to recognize or participate in. Beijing says the court has no jurisdiction and China cannot be forced to accept dispute resolution. China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou signaled discussion of the South China Sea would not be welcomed at the event, which happens once every two years, as it’s designed to discuss issues between Asia and Europe. “The ASEM leaders summit is not a suitable place to discuss the South China Sea. There are no plans to discuss it there on the agenda for the meeting. And it should not be put on the agenda,” Kong told a news briefing. However, Beijing-based diplomats involved with preparations for ASEM say it is inevitable the South China Sea dispute will be raised at the summit, which is expected to be attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. READ MORE...RELATED, France offers to ease tension on maritime  disputes... RELATED(2) Picking sides: A world of opinions on South China Sea...

ALSO:
The verdict - Philippines wins arbitration case vs China
[The Hague-based international tribunal ruled that China's nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters is invalid.] [RELATED: South China Sea ruling deepens tensions between US, China]


JULY 12 -The Permanent Court of Arbitration of the United Nations has issued its final ruling on the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines against China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) — The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) under the United Nations ruled in favor of the Philippines in its arbitration case against China over the South China Sea. The Hague-based international tribunal ruled that China's nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters is invalid. "[A]s between the Philippines and China, China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention," the award read.
The international tribunal found that it has jurisdiction to consider the dispute between the Philippines and China concerning historic rights and the source of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. The tribunal pointed out that there was no evidence that China has exercised exclusive control over the disputed waters or its resources. "The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line," the PCA said in a press release issued on Tuesday. The arbitral tribunal also ruled that the features occupied by China in the Spratly Islands are not capable of generating maritime zones as the reefs have been heavily modified by reclamation and construction. READ MORE...RELATED, South China Sea ruling deepens tensions between US, China...

ALSO: Asia-Europe summit omits mention of South China Sea


JULY 18 -EU high representative and vice president of the European Commission Federica Mogherini explained the EU does not take a position on sovereignty aspects relating to claims. The union, however, expressed the need for the parties to the dispute to resolve it through peaceful means, to clarify their claims and pursue them in accordance with international law, including the UNCLOS. AP Photo/Gerry Shih
MANILA, Philippines – Asian and European leaders stressed the importance of freedom of navigation in disputed waters and “full compliance with international law,” but did not specifically mention the South China Sea in their statement. Leaders of 51 Asian and European countries released the statement at the end of the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on Saturday. “Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to ensure peace, stability and prosperity and to promote maritime security, safety and cooperation, freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce and to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea in full compliance with the principles of international law,” the ASEM statement read. “Leaders agreed on the critical importance of confidence-building measures, of refraining from the use or threat of force, and of disputes being resolved in accordance with principles of international law, the UN Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” it added. The statement was released just days after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the Netherlands ruled that China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea are illegal because its “nine-dash line” has no basis in law. But the European Union (EU) and member states acknowledged the ruling, calling PCA’s decision one that is committed to maintaining a “legal order” of the seas and oceans and the peaceful settlement of disputes. READ MORE...

ALSO: COMMENTARY - Arbitral victory exceeded expectations


JULY 17 -The sweeping Philippine victory in the arbitration case over the South China Sea (SCS) exceeded my expectations. The arbitral tribunal granted 99 percent of our “submissions.” I will explain later why it was not a perfect 100 percent. Contrary to Unclos. To be understood by lay readers, I will analyze the 501-page unanimous “award,” dated July 12, 2016, into three major parts, consistent with my column last Sunday. First, the tribunal ruled that China’s “nine-dash line,” under which it claims “historic rights” over almost all of the vast SCS, is contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and thus invalid. True, Chinese navigators and fishermen historically roamed the “waters” of the SCS. But it is equally true that “those of other states” did likewise. Granting arguendo that such rights validly preexisted the Unclos, they were nonetheless “extinguished by the entry into force of the Convention,” to which China is bound as a signatory. Consequently, the Philippines is legally and solely entitled to exploit and develop the mineral deposits, marine life and other natural resources in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) measuring 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers) from its coastlines to the SCS. Consequently also, the SCS is open to freedom of navigation for all countries, and the navy and air force of the United States, Japan, Australia and other great powers can continue to sail or fly freely thereabout. Status of SCS features. Second, the Unclos recognizes four kinds of “features” in international waters: 1) “low-tide elevations” and 2) “submerged banks,” being below water at high tide, generate no maritime rights; 3) “rocks,” being above water at high tide, generate a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles; and 4) “islands,” which in their natural condition can sustain human habitation, generate an EEZ and a “continental shelf.” No amount of reclamation or human work can change the legal status of such features. The tribunal held that none of the features claimed or occupied by China in the Spratlys is an “island.” Not even Itu Aba, which, as I wrote last Sunday, is occupied by Taiwanese soldiers. Hence, the Philippines can fully and freely enjoy its EEZ, without any overlap of any Chinese EEZ. The tribunal agreed that Scarborough Shoal, located off the shore of Zambales, and three features in the Spratlys are “rocks,” but disagreed with the Philippines’ claim that Gaven Reef North and McKennan Reef (located also in the Spratlys) were low-tide elevations; instead, it said they are “rocks” also. READ MORE...


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China intensifies opposition ahead of South China Sea ruling


JULY 11 - In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat circles a Filipino fishing boat near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Renato Etac via AP, File

BEIJING, JULY 18, 2016 (INQUIRER) @inquirerdotnet Associated Press 05:15 PM July 11th, 2016 - China has intensified the drumbeat of its opposition to an international tribunal's ruling expected Tuesday that could threaten its expansive claims in the South China Sea.

China has intensified the drumbeat of its opposition to an international tribunal’s ruling expected Tuesday that could threaten its expansive claims in the South China Sea.

How Beijing responds to the ruling in the case filed by U.S. ally the Philippines could chart the course of global power relations in an increasingly dangerous hotspot. It comes as the U.S. has ramped up its military presence in the region and could seek to marshal world opinion to pressure Beijing into complying with the verdict.

A new Philippine leader who appears friendlier to Beijing could also influence the aftermath of the ruling.


DUTERTE: "On the West Philippine Sea, we remain optimistic that the judgment will be in our favor," he said in a speech during the 69th Philippine Air Force Anniversary at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga. "And if it's not, then we will accept it as part of a country who honors international commitments that is by the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)," he said. "Let's talk. We are not prepared to go to war. War is a dirty word now but we will proceed accordingly after we shall have the copy of the arbitral judgment," he said.

The Hague-based tribunal will decide on the 2013 case that challenges the so-called nine-dash line that China uses to claim virtually the entire South China Sea and which Manila opposes because it infringes upon its own 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The dispute centers on waters through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through each year and are home to rich fishing stocks and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other resources.

The Philippines has also asked the tribunal to rule on whether several disputed areas are outcrops, reefs or islands, a move aimed at clarifying the extent of territorial waters they are entitled to or if they can project exclusive economic zones.

More than merely about the sovereignty over the rocks and reefs or the actual waters, the South China Sea dispute has become a testing ground for a rising China to challenge the U.S.’s leadership in the Asian strategic order, analysts say.
Beijing wants to use this dispute to show how “China’s own growing maritime power and its economic significance to the United States and the global economy have reached the point where the United States can no longer afford to stand up to China,” said Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at The Australian National University. “That calculation might prove to be wrong.”

READ MORE...

China has boycotted the case, arguing that the tribunal has no jurisdiction and saying it won’t accept the ruling. It has insisted that bilateral talks between Beijing and other claimants are the only way to address the dispute.


PHOTO PRESIDENT OF CHINA -China seized Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales in 2012, prompting former President Benigno Simeon Aquino to seek international arbitration on the issue. Neighboring countries Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have claims in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea where about $5 trillion worth of global trade passes every year.

Some experts have speculated that China could respond to an unfavorable ruling by establishing an air defense identification zone over all or part of the South China Sea. There is similar speculation that China might militarize a reef off the Philippine coast, the Scarborough Shoal, where a standoff with China prompted the Philippines to initiate the tribunal case in 2013.

Beijing has given no direct indication of a tougher response, saying it remains committed to bilateral negotiations with Manila.
Tuesday’s ruling might further pressure China to clarify what exactly it is claiming with its “nine-dash line” boundary.

Findings of the tribunal are binding on the parties, including China. But the court – without police or military forces or a system of sanctions at its disposal – can’t enforce its ruling, so its potential impact remains unclear.

Still, in recent weeks, China has spared no effort to denounce the proceedings as unlawful, publishing state media commentaries and deploying senior military officers, current and former top officials and academics to relentlessly convey Beijing’s opposition.

On Monday, the day before the verdict, the overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, urged the Philippines to return to talks with China and the U.S. to stay out of the dispute.

OUTCOME 'AN AWARD'

The arbitration outcome, known as an “award,” was dismissed by former Chinese state councilor Dai Bingguo, in a conference in Washington, D.C., last week, as “nothing more than a piece of paper.”

Beijing has faced mounting calls to observe international law. At a U.S. congressional hearing last week, Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, urged both parties to comply with the ruling. Denmark said it was a chance to determine whether the region’s future will be defined by adherence to international laws or by “raw calculations of power.”

China might use strong rhetoric but not take aggressive action to avoid having the topic dominate the agenda at upcoming multilateral forums, said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Glaser said Chinese officials she’s spoken to say privately they hope the case would not rule entirely in the Philippines’ favor so that Beijing can say in internal discussions that Chinese interests have not been “irreparably harmed.”

A key factor that could change the equation of the consequences of this ruling is how the Philippines’ new President Rodrigo Duterte decides to respond. His predecessor Benigno Aquino III’s government filed the case, straining Manila’s relations with Beijing, but Duterte has shown readiness to mend frosty ties with China.

While Duterte has made critical remarks against the U.S., he has pointed out the benefits of nurturing friendly relations with Beijing, including a Chinese offer of financing railway projects in the Philippines. Duterte’s rise has given China an opening to make inroads in one of America’s closest security allies.

Last week, Duterte said his government stood ready to talk to China if it gets a favorable ruling. “When it’s favorable to us, let’s talk,” he said. “We are not prepared to go to war, war is a dirty word.”

It remains to be seen, however, how far Duterte can stray from Manila’s critical stance on China’s territorial assertiveness, given his country’s close ties with the U.S. and growing nationalist sentiment against China’s actions.

Jay Batongbacal, an expert on South China Sea issues at the state-run University of the Philippines, said the government should avoid revealing its cards ahead of potential negotiations with Beijing, “otherwise you lose the leverage that you have.”
Left-wing activists protested at the Chinese consulate in metropolitan Manila on Monday, urging China to leave what they said were other countries’ territories.

‘Chexit,’

“We’re calling on our brothers in Southeast Asia that this call for a ‘Chexit,’ or China exit, now is not only for Filipinos but for all to call on China to respect our territorial integrity,” said protest leader Mong Palatino.

Experts say the outcome of the dispute could provide ammunition for other countries involved in disputes with China.

Six governments have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea – China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. In addition, China’s nine-dash line overlaps waters that are part of Indonesia’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone.

“This is a time for China not to keep pushing forward too aggressively because they could embolden Vietnam and Indonesia to file a case as well,” Glaser said.

Regardless, the ruling is unlikely to stop China from continuing to pursue more effective control over the sea space and airspace of the South China Sea, Glaser said.

Over the last few months, the U.S. has held combined exercises by two Navy aircraft carrier strike groups off the coast of the Philippines and freedom of navigation cruises near China’s man-made islands to assert its presence in the Western Pacific.

Chinese state media have accused Washington of trying to turn the South China Sea “into a powder keg” and warned it not to underestimate China’s determination to defend its territorial claims.

Chinese warships, fighter jets and submarines have held live-fire war games as part of what the People’s Liberation Army Navy called routine exercises in the week running up to the tribunal’s ruling, drills that were seen at least in part responding to the U.S. presence.

“There’s a real game of nerves going on here with China perhaps assuming that the U.S. is bluffing and the U.S. hoping that China will actually not test American resolve,” Australian National University’s White said.
/rga

 
VIDEO: PREFACE TO THE HAGUE RULING ON SOUTH CHINA SEA


PHILSTAR

Pentagon says Hague ruling to determine Asia-Pacific's future By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated July 11, 2016 - 9:53am 6 154 googleplus1 0


This May 11, 2015, file photo, shows land reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. A landmark ruling on an arbitration case filed by the Philippines that seeks to strike down China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea will be a test for international law and world powers. China, which demands one-on-one talks to resolve the disputes, has boycotted the case and vowed to ignore the verdict, which will be handed down Tuesday, July 12, 2016, by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague. Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool Photo via AP, File

MANILA, Philippines — The upcoming ruling of a United Nations (UN) arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands will determine the future of the Asia-Pacific region, a United States Department of Defense (DoD) official said.

US Deputy Secretary of Defense for East Asia Abraham Denmark said that the forthcoming decision of the international arbitral tribunal will mark an important crossroads for the region.

"It will present an opportunity for those in the region to determine whether the Asia-Pacific’s future will be defined by adherence to international laws and norms that have enabled it to prosper or that the region’s future will be determined by raw calculations of power," Denmark said at a joint hearing of two subcommittees at the US DoD last week.

Denmark noted that the US wants to maintain the sea lines of communication through international waterways and airways.

The disputed South China Sea is one of the world's critical crossroads as trillions of dollars' worth of goods pass through the region every year.

The Philippines and China are only two of the claimant parties in the contested waters, along with Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia , Indonesia and Taiwan.

Denmark told the US DoD panel that China vowed not to accept the international tribunal's ruling, which is expected to come out on Tuesday.

The US Navy has patrolled the disputed sea since World War II, which created stability in the region and allowed Asia Pacific nations to prosper, Denmark said.

"It is central to our strategy of strengthening a principled, rules-based order that enables regional stability and prosperity," the US Defense official said.

The US DoD official noted that China has been asserting its claims through occupation by building islands in the Spratly group and placing facilities that could support military aircraft and ships.

READ MORE...

Meanwhile, the US is pursuing a whole-of-government approach to resolve the maritime dispute in the region.

"We’ve increased our military presence and we’re ensuring our presence is geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable," Denmark said.

Denmark added that the US is also working on increasing the military operations in the region including freedom of navigation exercises "wherever international law allows so that others can do the same."

The US DoD is working with partner nations, particularly members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to enhance their capabilities and capacity.

"Finally, we are engaging China directly to reduce risk… We seek to keep lines of communication with Beijing open and improve our cooperation in areas of mutual interest and to speak candidly and constructively when we disagree," Denmark said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that he will hold bilateral talks with China to resolve the South China Sea dispute if the issue remains stagnant in his first two years in office.

"If the negotiation is not moving or there is no wind to force the sail, if it is still stalemate, after two years, and China says do you want to talk bilateral, then I’ll say yes," Duterte said.


MANILA BULLETIN

Beijing says should be no South China Sea talk at Asia-Europe summit by Reuters July 11, 2016 Share2 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share49


A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Reuters/Nguyen Minh/File Photo

The South China Sea is not on the agenda and should not be discussed at a major summit between Asian and European leaders in Mongolia at the end of the week, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday.

The Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, will be the first important multilateral diplomatic gathering after the July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing a dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea.

Tensions and rhetoric have been rising ahead of the ruling in the Dutch city of The Hague, a case which China has refused to recognize or participate in. Beijing says the court has no jurisdiction and China cannot be forced to accept dispute resolution.

China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou signaled discussion of the South China Sea would not be welcomed at the event, which happens once every two years, as it’s designed to discuss issues between Asia and Europe.

“The ASEM leaders summit is not a suitable place to discuss the South China Sea. There are no plans to discuss it there on the agenda for the meeting. And it should not be put on the agenda,” Kong told a news briefing.

However, Beijing-based diplomats involved with preparations for ASEM say it is inevitable the South China Sea dispute will be raised at the summit, which is expected to be attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

READ MORE...

The United States has conducted freedom of navigation patrols close to Chinese-held islands, to Beijing’s anger, while China has been bolstering its military presence there.

Kong said that if there are tensions in the South China Sea it is because certain countries outside the region have been putting on shows of force and interfering.

“There is no reason to get the South China Sea issue into this ASEM meeting citing freedom of navigation and security interests as causes of concern. It’s got no leg to stand on,” he added.

FILIPINOS TOLD “DON’T TALK POLITICS”

Ahead of the ruling, Philippine nationals in China this weekend received mobile phone text messages from their embassy, warning them not to discuss politics in public and to avoid engaging in discussions on social media. They were advised to carry their passports and residency permits with them at all times and to contact the embassy or Chinese police if there are any untoward incidents.

China says much of the building and reclamation work it has been doing in the South China Sea is to benefit the international community, including for civilian maritime navigation.

The official China Daily said on Monday that China will soon start operations of a fifth lighthouse in the South China Sea, on Mischief Reef.

Taiwan is also watching the case closely.

Its single holding of Itu Aba is the biggest feature in the Spratlys and the one some analysts believe has the strongest claim to island status and an exclusive economic zone.

“If the ruling touches on our sovereign rights we will respond strongly,” said deputy foreign minister Leo C.J. Lee to lawmakers in a parliamentary committee session on Monday.

The coast guard, which directly oversees Itu Aba with the support of the military, will not “soften” its defense of the island, coast guard chief Lee Chung-wei added.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

France offers to ease tension on maritime disputes by Roy Mabasa July 17, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email1 Share13 image: http://www.mb.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/South-China-sea-patrol.jpg


In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat circles a Filipino fishing boat near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. China has intensified the drumbeat of its opposition to a milestone ruling expected Tuesday July 12, 2016, by an international tribunal that could threaten its expansive claims in the South China Sea. (Renato Etac via AP, File

France has expressed its willingness to help in reducing the tension in the South China Sea following the ruling handed down last week by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague favoring the Philippines over China.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the Bastille Day celebration over the weekend, French Ambassador to the Philippines Thierry Mathou said France can engage stakeholders, including China, in discussions and diplomacy, noting that “it’s in the interest of everyone to lessen the tension.”

“We have a very good relation (with China). It’s a global relation like with the Philippines. When you are good friends, you don’t have to fear being straight. It’s the way we are with all our partners,” the French envoy said.

While acknowledging the importance of discussion among the stakeholders, he pointed out that everybody has to abide by the law, including the Law of the Sea.

“We would like all stakeholders to engage in discussion because at the end, the only solution to this issue is negotiation,” he said

The ambassador also lauded the Duterte administration for its “very wise” response to the favorable ruling from the arbitration court.

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RELATED(2) FROM THE INQUIRER

Picking sides: A world of opinions on South China Sea By: Matthew Pennington @inquirerdotnet
Associated Press 05:30 PM July 11th, 2016


In this Nov. 24, 2015, image provided by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a tribunal of five arbitrators, seated top right, hears the case regarding the Philippines and China on the South China Sea at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, the Netherlands. Permanent Court of Arbitration via AP

WASHINGTON — A case brought by U.S. ally the Philippines against China represents a diplomatic dilemma for far-flung nations. Ahead of a ruling Tuesday, Washington and Beijing have rallied support for their respective positions on the use of international arbitration in South China Sea disputes.

The United States has been building diplomatic pressure in the West and in Asia on China to abide by the decision by a tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. China, which maintains it won’t be bound by the ruling, has been pushing back by building support from nations mostly in Africa and the Mideast.

The U.S. is not a party to the South China Sea territorial disputes, nor to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which the tribunal has been formed, but says it wants China to play by international rules. Since there is no enforcement mechanism for the ruling, any impact will depend on how the international community reacts.

Here’s a look at where dozens of countries stand:

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

ASEAN has been trying for years to achieve diplomatic solutions in the South China Sea, making little progress and exposing divisions in the 10-member bloc, which includes the Philippines. It is unlikely to reach consensus on the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling.

READ MORE...

When President Barack Obama met ASEAN leaders in February they agreed on “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes” in accordance with the U.N. convention. But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said in late June he opposes any ASEAN declaration to support the tribunal’s decision and efforts by countries outside the region “to mobilize forces against China.”

Vietnam, which has fought China over competing South China Sea claims, has been most supportive of the Philippines’ case and submitted a statement to the tribunal. Hanoi has said it supports “full compliance” to the procedures of the convention.
But other ASEAN nations are generally wary of speaking out for fear of alienating China, the region’s economic heavyweight. Malaysia and Brunei have said little about the case, though they too are South China Sea claimants.

Indonesia and Singapore are not claimants but have been a bit more outspoken. Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said last month that the ruling could have implications beyond the South China Sea and “we cannot subscribe to the principle that might is right.” Indonesian President Joko Widodo has underscored his commitment to protect Indonesian sovereignty over its Natuna Islands at the edge of the South China Sea, where he flew last month after the Indonesian navy detained a Chinese fishing boat and arrested a group of Chinese fishermen. His Foreign Ministry has declined to say whether the ruling should be binding on both sides but says international law must be respected.

In another indication of ASEAN discord, its 10 foreign ministers agreed on a tough statement of concern on the South China Sea issue after meeting their counterpart in China. The statement was not issued publicly, however, after one or more had a change of heart while in China and withdrew approval of the communique.

Even the Philippines’ position is unpredictable as a new government has just taken office. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has expressed willingness to restart bilateral negotiations with China.

Russia

Moscow, which shares China’s suspicion of Washington, is Beijing’s most prominent supporter on the issue although it has not explicitly said how it will respond to the tribunal’s ruling. On a visit to China in April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia is against any interference from outside parties in the South China Sea — a reference to the U.S. — “or any attempts to internationalize these disputes.” Like China, Russia says disputes should be resolved through talks between the parties directly involved.

China supporters in Africa, Mideast

China’s state media has reported that about 60 countries have expressed support for China’s stance on the arbitration case. The Foreign Ministry has in recent weeks given prominent mention to support it claims to have from nations principally in Africa, the Mideast and Central Asia.

But relatively few of those foreign governments have issued statements independently. Some, including Fiji and NATO member Slovenia, have disavowed China’s description of their position.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said it could confirm official statements from Afghanistan, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Niger, Sudan, Togo and Vanuatu.

European Union and G-7

The EU has urged all South China Sea claimants to resolve disputes through peaceful means and “pursue them in accordance with international law,” including the U.N. convention. The Group of Seven wealthy nations, which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and the EU, has called on all states to fully implement decisions binding on them in courts and tribunals provided under the convention.

In June, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian proposed that European navies coordinate patrols in Asian waters to reinforce a rules-based maritime order. He warned that if the laws of the sea are not respected in that region, they could also be challenged in the Arctic Ocean or Mediterranean Sea.

Australia

In January, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the China-Philippines ruling will be “extremely important” as a statement of international principle and will “settle once and for all” whether artificial reefs are entitled to territorial waters.

China has built up several artificial islands to advance its sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Australia has been less outspoken in support of arbitration than the U.S., perhaps mindful of Australia’s own resistance to arbitration to resolve its disputed maritime border with tiny East Timor.

India
India has not issued a categorical position on the arbitration case, but has been broadly supportive of the application of international law. India shares U.S. concerns about Beijing’s rising ambitions in the seas of Asia.

India’s External Affairs Ministry says that “all countries must abide by international law and norms on maritime issues.” India set an example in 2014 when it accepted a decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that ruled in favor of Bangladesh in a dispute over the countries’ maritime boundary.

Japan

Japan was an early supporter of the Philippines’ pursuit of arbitration and says both China and the Philippines should abide by the outcome. Japan sees that as upholding international law, but it also reflects concern that historic rival China seeks strategic control of vital sea lanes in the South China Sea that carry 80 percent of Japan’s crude oil imports.

Japan’s support of third-party dispute resolution is not universal. While it has sought to take its dispute with South Korea over the South Korean-held Dokdo or Takeshima islands to the International Court of Justice, it says no such action is needed in its dispute with China over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, which are administered by Japan.

South Korea

Like Japan, South Korea is heavily dependent on fuel imports that pass through the South China Sea, but it has closer ties with China and has been less inclined to speak out. The Foreign Ministry says South China Sea disputes should be resolved under internationally established regulations and that it is “looking with interest” at the Philippine-China arbitration case.
Taiwan

Taiwan has complained that the tribunal has not solicited its views. While Taipei officially exercises the same nine-dash line claim as Beijing in the South China Sea, it is primarily concerned about Taiping island in the Spratlys. Taiwan administers that remote land feature and is concerned it could be designated as a rock without the rights granted to islands.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

China warns vs ‘cradle of war’; Insists on historical rights over the sea posted July 14, 2016 at 12:01 am by AFP, Sara Susanne D. Fabunan and Florante S. Solmerin


Sea patrols. A helicopter of the Japanese Coast Guard conducts an aerial surveillance while a patrol vessel of the Philippine Coast Guard (BRP Nueva Ecija) searches for hijackers during a mock sea robbery off Manila Bay as part of a joint exercise between the two nations dubbed as 6th Joint Maritime Law Enforcement. DANNY PATA

BEIJING—China warned its rivals Wednesday against turning the South China Sea into a “cradle of war” and threatened to establish an air defense zone there, after its claims to the strategically vital waters were declared invalid.

The surprisingly strong and sweeping ruling by a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague provided powerful diplomatic ammunition to the Philippines, which filed the challenge, and other claimants in their decades-long disputes with China over the resource-rich waters.

China reacted furiously to Tuesday’s decision, insisting on its historical rights over the sea while launching a volley of thinly veiled warnings to the United States and other critical nations.

“Do not turn the South China Sea into a cradle of war,” Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Beijing, as he described the ruling as waste paper.

“China’s aim is to turn the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.”

Liu said China also had “the right” to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the sea, which would give the Chinese military authority over foreign aircraft.

A similar zone set up in 2013 in the East China Sea riled Japan, the United States and its allies.

“Whether we need to set up one in the South China Sea depends on the level of threat we receive,” he said.

“We hope other countries will not take the chance to blackmail China.”

The Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, was even more blunt over the ramifications of the verdict.

“It will certainly intensify conflicts and even confrontation,” Cui said in Washington on Tuesday.

China justifies its sovereignty claims by saying it was the first to have discovered, named and exploited the sea, and outlines its claims for most of the waterway using a vague map made up of nine dashes that emerged in the 1940s.

Those claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Manila, under previous President Benigno Aquino III, launched the legal case in 2013 after China took control of Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and far away from the nearest major Chinese landmass.China has also in recent years built giant artificial islands capable of hosting military installations and airstrips in the Spratlys archipelago, one of the biggest groups of islands in the sea.

Aside from stating that China’s historical rights were without “legal basis,” the tribunal ruled that its artificial island building and the blocking of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal were unlawful.

However, the Philippines, under new President Rodrigo Duterte, declined to celebrate the verdict, saying on Tuesday only that it welcomed the ruling while calling for sobriety and restraint.

Duterte has repeatedly said he wants to improve relations with China, which plummeted under Aquino because of the dispute, and that he would seek Chinese investment for major infrastructure projects such as a railway for the impoverished southern Philippines.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said last week that the Philippines would seek to use the verdict as the basis for direct talks with China aimed at achieving a long-awaited code of conduct among rival claimants for the sea.

On Wednesday, Yasay urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to come up with a unified statement on the South China Sea, following the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal.

China faced immediate pressure from Western powers, which insist they have legitimate interests in the dispute because of the need to maintain “freedom of navigation” in waters that hosts more than $5 trillion in shipping trade annually.

The United States emphasized on Tuesday that China, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, should accept the verdict.

“As provided in the convention, the tribunal’s decision is final and legally binding on both China and the Philippines,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.

Kirby called on all sides “to avoid provocative statements or actions.”

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned China on Wednesday there would be “strong reputational costs” for ignoring the ruling, as she called for an end to Chinese island building.

“China seeks to be a regional and global leader and requires friendly relations with its neighbors. That’s crucial to its rise,” Bishop told national broadcaster ABC.

TENSIONS SPIKED

Military tensions in the sea had already spiked in the lead-up to the verdict.

China launched naval drills in the northern areas, while the US Pacific Command said it had deployed an aircraft carrier for flights to support “security” in the sea.

Taiwan, which was another loser in the verdict as its claims are very similar to those of China, sent a warship to the sea on Wednesday to protect its claims.

Its representative office in Manila issued a statement saying that the tribunal’s decision was “completely unacceptable.”

President Tsai Ing-wen rallied troops on the deck of the frigate, saying Taiwanese were determined to “defend their country’s rights,” before the warship headed for Taiwan-controlled Taiping island in the Spratly island chain from the southern city of Kaohsiung.

China used deadly force to seize control of the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam in 1974, and Johnson Reef from a united Vietnam in 1988.

On Wednesday, Yasay brushed aside criticism of the administration’s cautious remarks about the decision.

“We have to be circumspect and restrain in our reactions. We cannot gloat about our triumph,” he said. “We’re happy about it. And we could not be more pleased [with] the decision of the arbitral tribunal. [But we] always maintain that we have to be magnanimous in victory.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the US has reassured the Philippines of its “iron-clad” support following the tribunal’s verdict.

He emphasized, however, that Manila never solicited the opinion or advice of Washington on what to do next.

“We will not cosult them… Our actions will be guided by what is good for the country,” he said.

Lorenzana said his US counterpart, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, called him briefly Sunday afternoon, three days before the verdict, to reassure Manila of Washignton’s solid support. He said Carter was with President Barrack Obama in London when they talked over the phone.

Western Command commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said they were awaiting guidance from the national government on what to do about the artificial islands created by the Chinese inside the Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan.

“There has no guidance to change whatever we have been doing. The bottom line right now is we are just waiting for policies to be laid down by the national government,” Mercado said.

IN WASHINGTON

In Washington, Beijing’s ambassador to the United States said the tribunal’s decision would “certainly undermine or weaken the motivation of states to engage in negotiations and consultations for solving their dispute.”

“It will certainly intensify conflicts and even confrontation,” said Ambassador Cui Tiankai, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “In the end, it will undermine the authority and effectiveness of international law.”

The envoy also warned that the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling “will probably open the door of abusing arbitration procedures.”

The envoy also blamed Washington’s pivot to Asia under President Barack Obama for increased tensions.

“Tensions started to rise five to six years ago, about the same time we began to hear from the so-called pivoting to Asia,” Cui said. “Disputes intensified, relations strained, confidence weakened.”

The Australian government said China must accept the verdict and needs to halt its artificial island building in the disputed waters.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Beijing risked hurting its reputation if it ignored the ruling by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, on a case brought by Manila, which said China had no title to the waterway.

“We call on both the Philippines and China to respect the ruling, to abide by it. It is final and legally binding on both of them,” Bishop told national broadcaster ABC.

“This treaty, the Law of the Sea, codifies pre-existing international custom. It’s a foundation to maritime trade and commerce globally, and so to ignore it would be a serious international transgression,” Bishop added.


PHILSTAR

The verdict: Philippines wins arbitration case vs China By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated July 12, 2016 - 5:20pm 38 238 googleplus0 0


The Permanent Court of Arbitration of the United Nations has issued its final ruling on the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines against China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) — The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) under the United Nations ruled in favor of the Philippines in its arbitration case against China over the South China Sea.

The Hague-based international tribunal ruled that China's nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters is invalid.

"[A]s between the Philippines and China, China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention," the award read.

The international tribunal found that it has jurisdiction to consider the dispute between the Philippines and China concerning historic rights and the source of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

The tribunal pointed out that there was no evidence that China has exercised exclusive control over the disputed waters or its resources.

"The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line," the PCA said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

The arbitral tribunal also ruled that the features occupied by China in the Spratly Islands are not capable of generating maritime zones as the reefs have been heavily modified by reclamation and construction.

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"Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Tribunal found that it could—without delimiting a boundary—declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China," the PCA statement read.

The PCA found that China violated the Philippines's sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by: interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration constructing artificial islands failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone The international tribunal also held that China interfered with the rights of Filipino fishermen by restricting access at Scarborough Shoal.

"Tribunal also found that Chinese authorities were aware that Chinese fishermen have harvested endangered sea turtles, coral, and giant clams on a substantial scale in the South China Sea (using methods that inflict severe damage on the coral reef environment) and had not fulfilled their obligations to stop such activities," the tribunal said.

The tribunal found that China's massive land reclamation activities in the region aggravated the dispute as it has inflicted irreparable harm to the marine environment and built an artificial island in the Philippines's EEZ.

RELATED: Timeline: South China Sea dispute

The Philippines was the first country to challenge China's expansive claims over the disputed waters.

In October 2015, the UN tribunal ruled that it has jurisdiction to consider the Philippines's claims over the disputed sea and whether the claims are admissible.

FULL TEXT: Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on Philippines case vs China

China has insisted that it will not respect the decision of the international tribunal and claimed that the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III was illegal from the beginning.

RELATED: China insists on historical, legal claims over South China Sea

LIVE UPDATES: Verdict on the South China Sea

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

South China Sea ruling deepens tensions between US, China By Matthew Pennington (Associated Press) | Updated July 13, 2016 - 10:04am 5 33 googleplus0 1


Filipinos cheer moments after the Hague-based U.N. international arbitration tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against China on the dispute in South China Sea Tuesday, July 12, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The tribunal has found that there is no legal basis for China's "nine-dash line" claiming rights to much of the South China Sea. The tribunal issued its ruling Tuesday in The Hague in response to an arbitration case brought by the Philippines against China. AP/Bullit Marquez

WASHINGTON — A landmark international tribunal ruling on the South China Sea threatens to sharpen the differences between from the United States and China, exposing a growing gulf between the world powers.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the White House policy director for Asia, said Monday's ruling in the case brought by the Philippines was "an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea." U.S. officials expressed hope it could provide an impetus to diplomacy.

Unsurprisingly, China was less sanguine, as the ruling rejected the legal basis of China's expansive territorial claims.

Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, reiterated Beijing's support for negotiations among concerned parties to resolve territorial disputes, but he said the ruling would set back the prospects of diplomacy in the South China Sea, where in all, six Asian governments have competing claims.

"It will certainly intensify conflict and even confrontation. In the end it will undermine the authority and effectiveness of international law," Cui said, hours after the Hague-based tribunal issued its decision.

The two both spoke at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, and their comments reflected how the South China Sea is increasingly the spoiler in relations between the U.S. and China.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have managed to cooperate on global issues such as climate change. But at the same time, tensions have grown over China's land reclamation in the South China Sea, where it has created artificial islands with military facilities, viewed by the U.S. as an attempt to gain effective control of the area.

The U.S. has responded with more military patrols, which China views as provocative.

If first reactions to the tribunal ruling are anything to go by, the differences are set to deepen — although both sides say they don't want this divisive issue to dominate the relationship.

Kritenbrink said the U.S. stance was not driven by any strategic rivalry between the U.S. and China, but a desire to uphold the "rules-based international order." He said if that broke down, and countries built up strength and became more assertive, history shows it could lead to "tragic outcomes."

Cui also warned of the risk of conflict, but said it was China that was standing up for international law, by rejecting legal arbitration it had not consented to.

THE U.N. CONVENTION HAS JURISDICTION, NOT U.S.

The tribunal ruled it had jurisdiction in the case under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both China and the Philippines — but not the United States — are party to.

Amarjit Singh, a senior consultant at IHS Country Risk, predicted that after the ruling, the U.S. would undertake so-called "freedom of navigation" patrols and flights within the area claimed by China to reinforce the arbitration's findings that various Chinese claims there are not valid.

U.S. lawmakers are urging such action. Influential Republican Sen. John McCain was among those calling Monday for the U.S. to regularly challenge "China's excessive maritime claims."

Since the tribunal ruled that some of China's artificial islands are so-called "low tide elevations" that are not entitled to 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, the U.S. may be tempted to sail closer than it has in the past.

"In theory we could sail within 500 meters" of Mischief Reef, said Michael McDevitt, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral with long experience in the Pacific, referring to one of the reclaimed islands, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) off the Philippine coast.

Cui said such operations are a threat to freedom of navigation by commercial and civilian vessels.

He compared Obama's strategic "pivot" to boost the U.S. presence in the relatively stable Asia-Pacific to American interventions in Middle East countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria — implying that it could lead to turmoil.


PHILSTAR

Asia-Europe summit omits mention of South China Sea By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 18, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


EU high representative and vice president of the European Commission Federica Mogherini explained the EU does not take a position on sovereignty aspects relating to claims. The union, however, expressed the need for the parties to the dispute to resolve it through peaceful means, to clarify their claims and pursue them in accordance with international law, including the UNCLOS. AP Photo/Gerry Shih

MANILA, Philippines – Asian and European leaders stressed the importance of freedom of navigation in disputed waters and “full compliance with international law,” but did not specifically mention the South China Sea in their statement.

Leaders of 51 Asian and European countries released the statement at the end of the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on Saturday.

“Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to ensure peace, stability and prosperity and to promote maritime security, safety and cooperation, freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce and to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea in full compliance with the principles of international law,” the ASEM statement read.

“Leaders agreed on the critical importance of confidence-building measures, of refraining from the use or threat of force, and of disputes being resolved in accordance with principles of international law, the UN Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” it added.

The statement was released just days after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the Netherlands ruled that China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea are illegal because its “nine-dash line” has no basis in law.

But the European Union (EU) and member states acknowledged the ruling, calling PCA’s decision one that is committed to maintaining a “legal order” of the seas and oceans and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

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EU high representative and vice president of the European Commission Federica Mogherini explained the EU does not take a position on sovereignty aspects relating to claims. The union, however, expressed the need for the parties to the dispute to resolve it through peaceful means, to clarify their claims and pursue them in accordance with international law, including the UNCLOS.

“The European Union and its member states, as contracting parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, acknowledge the Award rendered by the arbitral tribunal, being committed to maintaining a legal order of the seas and oceans based upon the principles of international law, UNCLOS, and to the peaceful settlement of disputes,” Mogherini said in the declaration.

Mogherini also said the Philippines’ immediate call for calm was the “right and wise approach.” The EU is also ready to facilitate activities to help build confidence between the Philippines and China.

The EU emphasized that the dispute settlement mechanisms, as provided under UNCLOS, contribute to the maintenance of the international order based on the rule of law and are essential to settle disputes.

“The EU also underlines the fundamental importance of upholding the freedoms, rights and duties established in UNCLOS, in particular the freedoms of navigation and overflight,” she added.

Mogherini and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. met on the sidelines of the 11th ASEM Summit.

Yasay represented President Duterte in the first international engagement of the new administration. The Philippines is a founding member of ASEM, which was established in 1996.

In the first plenary session that focused on the two-decade partnership, Yasay cited ASEM’s role in promoting understanding and cooperation in addressing regional and international political-security concerns.

The Philippines also pushed for several issues of interest. Its priorities in the climate change agenda, such as adaptation and loss and damage, were included in the 11th ASEM Summit Chairman’s Statement.

Other areas such as micro-small and medium enterprises, facilitating international trade and counterterrorism were also put forward by Manila.


INQUIRER COMMENTARY

WITH DUE RESPECT
Arbitral victory exceeded expectations By: Artemio V. Panganiban @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:17 AM July 17th, 2016

The sweeping Philippine victory in the arbitration case over the South China Sea (SCS) exceeded my expectations. The arbitral tribunal granted 99 percent of our “submissions.” I will explain later why it was not a perfect 100 percent.

Contrary to Unclos.

To be understood by lay readers, I will analyze the 501-page unanimous “award,” dated July 12, 2016, into three major parts, consistent with my column last Sunday.

First, the tribunal ruled that China’s “nine-dash line,” under which it claims “historic rights” over almost all of the vast SCS, is contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and thus invalid. True, Chinese navigators and fishermen historically roamed the “waters” of the SCS. But it is equally true that “those of other states” did likewise.

Granting arguendo that such rights validly preexisted the Unclos, they were nonetheless “extinguished by the entry into force of the Convention,” to which China is bound as a signatory.

Consequently, the Philippines is legally and solely entitled to exploit and develop the mineral deposits, marine life and other natural resources in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) measuring 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers) from its coastlines to the SCS.

Consequently also, the SCS is open to freedom of navigation for all countries, and the navy and air force of the United States, Japan, Australia and other great powers can continue to sail or fly freely thereabout.

Status of SCS features.

Second, the Unclos recognizes four kinds of “features” in international waters: 1) “low-tide elevations” and 2) “submerged banks,” being below water at high tide, generate no maritime rights; 3) “rocks,” being above water at high tide, generate a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles; and 4) “islands,” which in their natural condition can sustain human habitation, generate an EEZ and a “continental shelf.” No amount of reclamation or human work can change the legal status of such features.

The tribunal held that none of the features claimed or occupied by China in the Spratlys is an “island.” Not even Itu Aba, which, as I wrote last Sunday, is occupied by Taiwanese soldiers. Hence, the Philippines can fully and freely enjoy its EEZ, without any overlap of any Chinese EEZ.

The tribunal agreed that Scarborough Shoal, located off the shore of Zambales, and three features in the Spratlys are “rocks,” but disagreed with the Philippines’ claim that Gaven Reef North and McKennan Reef (located also in the Spratlys) were low-tide elevations; instead, it said they are “rocks” also.

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Further, the tribunal explained that since Scarborough “generates an entitlement to a territorial sea, its surrounding waters do not form part of the EEZ, and traditional fishing rights were not extinguished by the Convention.” Consequently, China “violated … the traditional fishing rights of Philippine fishermen by halting [their] access to the Shoal.” The tribunal added that, like the Filipinos, the Chinese may also continue enjoying their equal traditional fishing rights there.

Third, the tribunal held that China “violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights with respect to its EEZ and continental shelf” when it “(a) interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration at Reed Bank, (b) purported to prohibit fishing by Philippine vessels within the Philippines’ EEZ, (c) protected and failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ EEZ … and, (d) constructed installations and artificial islands…”

The tribunal also found that “China’s recent large scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands … has caused severe harm to the coral reef environment … [and that] Chinese fishermen have engaged in the harvesting of endangered sea turtles, coral, and giant clams…” It also lamented the lawlessness of “Chinese law enforcement vessels at Scarborough Shoal … [that] sought to physically obstruct Philippine vessels from approaching or gaining entrance to the Shoal.”

In addition to these three major items, the tribunal held that “China’s large scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands” had aggravated the dispute. It however denied a Philippine request that China be advised “to comply with its duties under the Convention,” saying that it was unnecessary to do so. Because of, among others, this denial, the grant of equal fishing rights to Chinese fishermen and the tribunal’s ruling on the “rock” status of Gaven Reef North and McKennan Reef, I graded the Philippines’ victory only 99, not 100, percent.

Enforcement.

China maintains that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the dispute; ergo, it will not follow the decision. Instead of using provocative saber-rattling responses, the Duterte administration laudably counseled restraint and chose diplomacy and peaceful negotiation.

The United States also used lack of jurisdiction in refusing to honor the June 27, 1986, decision of the International Court of Justice directing it to pay reparations for its support of the Contra rebels against Nicaragua. It even vetoed a call by the UN Security Council and ignored a resolution of the UN General Assembly supporting Nicaragua. In the end, however, the dispute was settled peacefully through diplomacy and negotiation.

Diplomacy and negotiation were also used by Mauritius to convince the United Kingdom to obey an arbitral decision issued on March 18, 2015, regarding the Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

I believe that, like those two cases involving the United States and the United Kingdom, our dispute with China can be peacefully resolved.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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