An editorial in the Chinese government-run newspaper, the Global Times, asserts that Beijing is “prepared for any military confrontation” with the United States or the Philippines in response to an expected verdict later this month on the Philippines’ territorial case against China at The Hague.
“China is a peace-loving country and deals with foreign relations with discretion, but it won’t flinch if the US and its small clique keep encroaching on its interests on its doorstep,” the article asserts. “China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, but it must be prepared for any military confrontation. This is common sense in international relations.”
The author asserts that China should be ready to “let the US pay a cost it cannot stand if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force.”
The case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration is a challenge to China’s “nine-dash line,” a border China claims in the South China Sea that overlaps with the exclusive territory of the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia, and touches Indonesian waters. China claims the fishing grounds and islands within are “historically” Chinese territory, and has spent the past two years building military and civilian facilities in the Spratly and Paracel Islands and the Scarborough Shoal, causing untold environmental damage and threatening its neighbors with military force.
The United States has engaged in numerous “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region to aid China’s neighbors in asserting the international nature of the waters in dispute, enraging Chinese officials.
Chinese government officials, Reuters notes, downplayed the threatening nature of the Global Times piece, though the government approves the material published in that newspaper. “We’ve pointed out many times recently that as for the relevant dispute, China does not accept any decision imposed by a third party as a means of resolution, nor any solution plan that is forced upon China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said this week, adding that China will “work with ASEAN countries,” but not alleged outsiders.
The Chinese government has repeatedly asserted it will disregard any verdict from The Hague. “It is fairly generally accepted under international law that the excess of power may be treated as a nullity. That’s exactly the position taken by China,” a separate Global Times article asserts. “The Arbitral Tribunal exercised jurisdiction ultra vires and any of its decisions have no legal effects.”
It is not only Chinese media that are reacting preemptively to the verdict, however. The Chinese military is beginning drills Tuesday near the Paracel Islands, claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, scheduled to end on July 11, the day before the verdict. Chinese authorities have claimed both that the drills are “routine” and that they are meant for “peacekeeping” in the region against competing claimants.
The Hague arbitration began under the tenure of Philippine President Benigno Aquino, who took an aggressive stance against Chinese usurpation. It is unclear how newly inaugurated President Rodrigo Duterte will respond to the verdict. Duterte has repeatedly asserted he seeks better relations with China, while also promising to personally reclaim the South China Sea by riding into disputed territories on a jet ski.