Political control behind arbitral tribunal will be revealed – Chinese FM

Beijing yesterday said the political manipulation behind the arbitral tribunal which denied the legal basis for China's claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by neighboring nation including the Philippines will be revealed.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has accused the United States, Japan and Australia of "playing up" regional tension after their top diplomats released a joint statement expressing "serious concerns" over the South China Sea.

Wang, in a statement, said the trilateral statement "is fanning the flames" at a time when "regional countries are determined to enhance cooperation and want to see the South China Sea situation cool down." "Regional countries resist choosing sides on the arbitration case, believing that it is a bilateral issue between China and the Philippines, on the other hand, the trilateral statement asserts that the so-called ruling which is highly contentious is binding," he added.

The South China Sea is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, believed to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also consider some of the region's waters, islands and reefs to be their territory.

According to Wang, China has not participated in the arbitration case and will not accept the so-called ruling, a position that China has made clear since day one and is supported by strong legal basis.

By adopting this position, China is safeguarding the sanctity and impartiality of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), said the Chinese official.

"First, the arbitration unilaterally initiated by the former Philippine government violated the principle of having the consent of concerned parties as the basis of arbitration and failed to meet the prerequisite of conducting full exchange of views beforehand, thus lacking the legal conditions to be initiated," Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

He noted that the former Philippine government had done also abandoned bilateral agreements between China and the Philippines and violated Article 4 of the Declaration on Conducts of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) as well as the principle of estoppel prescribed in international law.

Second, he said, the subject matters of the arbitration, however packaged, in fact directly concern territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation which are beyond the scope of the Unclos and the jurisdiction of the ad hoc tribunal.

"It is a typical act of overstepping the power and ultra vires (beyond the powers) as well as the abuse of dispute arbitration mechanism."

Wang said by citing a prominent legal expert from Europe that the arbitration case undoubtedly touches upon territorial sovereignty which is not governed by the Unclos. The tribunal's practice of separating territorial sovereignty dispute with the status of islands and reefs is unseen in international law, which is like "putting the cart before the horse."

Also, the ruling of the ad hoc tribunal is full of obvious mistakes, Wang said.

"It blatantly uses its self-invented rules to negate and deprive the lawful and legitimate territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests of parties concerned. In particular, it says that Taiping Dao, the largest island in the Nansha Islands with an area of 500,000 square meters, is a rock and has no relevant maritime rights."

If such a judgment can legally stand, the sea map of the world will need to be redrawn, Wang stressed.

He said the ruling runs counter to the spirit of international rule of law as well as the principle and spirit of the Unclos.

"This arbitration is imbued with question marks and fallacies in terms of procedure, legal application, fact finding and evidence gathering," Wang added.

The so-called ruling is illegal in three aspects: the initiation of the arbitration is illegal, the set-up of the tribunal is illegal, and the result of the arbitration is illegal. Therefore, China's stance is fully legitimate which serves the purpose of upholding international equity and justice and regional peace and stability, the Chinese official stressed.

Wang said more and more countries have come to see the nature and danger of the arbitration case, and understand and acknowledge China's stance to resolve disputes through direct negotiation and consultation, calling for respect to the rights of sovereign states to independently choose dispute settlement means including respecting the declaration on optional exceptions made under Article 298 of the Unclos.

There are also more and more legal experts around the world questioning the legality of the arbitration case and the fairness of the ruling, Wang added, noting that the illegal nature of the so-called South China Sea arbitration case and the political manipulation hidden behind the ad hoc arbitral tribunal will be further revealed.

Source: Tribune