World View: Philippines Humiliates China in Harsh Hague Tribunal Ruling over South China Sea

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • UN Court issues harsh ruling condemning China and affirming the Philippines
  • Tribunal ruling eviscerates China’s ‘Nine-Dash Line’ claims
  • China reacts angrily to the Tribunal ruling

UN Court issues harsh ruling condemning China and affirming the Philippines

Cheering Filipina girls on Tuesday after hearing the Tribunal announcement (AP)
Cheering Filipina girls on Tuesday after hearing the Tribunal announcement (AP)

China was deeply humiliated and infuriated on Tuesday by the announcement that the hated Philippines had beaten them in a major court case on the South China Sea. It was not a simple “on balance” victory for the Philippines. It was a ruling by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague where the Philippines had thoroughly thrashed China. The court found that China’s claims to the Spratly Islands were invalid, that China’s activities in the Spratly Islands were violations of international law and destructive of the environment, and furthermore that China had repeatedly and willfully violated the Philippines’ own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), putting the lives of Philippine fishermen in danger.

The Chinese and Filipino people are long-time war enemies who hold each other in contempt. In this generational Crisis era, the two countries are both highly nationalistic. There is a great deal of international concern right now that the Filipino people will gloat and that China will act like a trapped animal and will use its vast military power to strike back in some way that will lead to war.

There is now a worldwide diplomatic search for some kind of face-saving solution. One thing is for sure: The ruling did not settle the South China Sea issue, and probably made it worse. South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and VOA and Guardian (London)

Tribunal ruling eviscerates China’s ‘Nine-Dash Line’ claims

China’s famous “Nine-Dash Line” claims – a Chinese map with line consisting of nine long dashes that encompasses the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to other countries – was completely eviscerated by the ruling.

The following are some excerpts from the “Conclusion” section of the ruling:

D. CONCLUSION

The Tribunal considers it beyond dispute that both Parties are obliged to comply with the Convention, including its provisions regarding the resolution of disputes, and to respect the rights and freedoms of other States under the Convention. …

[The Tribunal] DECLARES that, as 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 Tribunal] DECLARES that Scarborough Shoal, Gaven Reef (North), McKennan Reef, Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef, in their natural condition, are rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own, and accordingly that [they] generate no entitlement to an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

[The Tribunal] FINDS that none of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands, in their natural condition, are capable of sustaining human habitation or economic life of their own …; that none of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands generate entitlements to an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf; and that therefore there is no entitlement to an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf generated by any feature claimed by China that would overlap the entitlements of the Philippines in the area of Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal; and DECLARES that Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal are within the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines.

[The Tribunal] FINDS that, in May 2013, fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels engaged in fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal; and that China, through the operation of its marine surveillance vessels, was aware of, tolerated, and failed to exercise due diligence to prevent such fishing by Chinese flagged vessels; and that therefore China has failed to exhibit due regard for the Philippines’ sovereign rights with respect to fisheries in its exclusive economic zone; and DECLARES that China has breached its obligations under Article 58(3) of the Convention;

[The Tribunal] FINDS that Scarborough Shoal has been a traditional fishing ground for fishermen of many nationalities and DECLARES that China has, through the operation of its official vessels at Scarborough Shoal from May 2012 onwards, unlawfully prevented fishermen from the Philippines from engaging in traditional fishing at Scarborough Shoal.

[The Tribunal] FINDS, with respect to the protection and preservation of the marine environment in the South China Sea: that fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels have engaged in the harvesting of endangered species on a significant scale; that fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels have engaged in the harvesting of giant clams in a manner that is severely destructive of the coral reef ecosystem; and that China was aware of, tolerated, protected, and failed to prevent the aforementioned harmful activities.

[The Tribunal] FINDS further that China’s land reclamation and construction of artificial islands, installations, and structures at Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef has caused severe, irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem; that China has not cooperated or coordinated with the other States bordering the South China Sea concerning the protection and preservation of the marine environment concerning such activities; and that China has failed to communicate an assessment of the potential effects of such activities on the marine environment, within the meaning of Article 206 of the Convention.

[The Tribunal] DECLARES that China has breached its obligations … with respect to China’s construction of artificial islands, installations, and structures at Mischief Reef: FINDS that China has engaged in the construction of artificial islands, installations, and structures at Mischief Reef without the authorization of the Philippines; and DECLARES that China has breached Articles 60 and 80 of the Convention with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

[The Tribunal] FINDS, with respect to the operation of Chinese law enforcement vessels in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal: that China’s operation of its law enforcement vessels on 28 April 2012 and 26 May 2012 created serious risk of collision and danger to Philippine ships and personnel; and DECLARES that China has breached its obligations under Article 94 of the Convention; and that, during the time in which these dispute resolution proceedings were ongoing, China: a. has built a large artificial island on Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation located in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines; b. has caused—through its land reclamation and construction of artificial islands, installations, and structures—severe, irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem …; and has permanently destroyed—through its land reclamation and construction of artificial islands, installations, and structures—evidence of the natural condition of Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, and Subi Reef.

Part of China’s claim to the South China Sea was a kind of leapfrogging from island to island. China would claim one island close to the mainland, then claim another island is close to the first island, and so forth, across the South China Sea.

The Tribunal ruling was that these so-called islands are not islands. They’re simply uninhabited rocks, and so they do not qualify to be claimed by anyone.

The ruling makes the following points:

  • The Spratly Islands are little more than rocks, uninhabited, and so do not “generate entitlements to an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.”
  • China purposely and illegally permitted its own vessels to fish in the Philippines EEZ.
  • China purposely and illegally prevented fishermen from the Philippines to fish around Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground for many nationalities. China put Philippines’ fishermen’s lives at risk.
  • China has harvested endangered species “on a significant scale.” China has been “severely destructive of the coral reef ecosystem.”
  • China’s construction of artificial islands is almost totally illegal, because of environmental destruction and because they violate “Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”

Permanent Court of Arbitration ruline and Russia Today

China reacts angrily to the Tribunal ruling

Chinese media graphic: 'The farce should come to an end'
Chinese media graphic: ‘The farce should come to an end’

Here are some excerpts from China’s Foreign Ministry statement:

First, the South China Sea arbitration is completely a political farce staged under legal pretext…

Its purpose is clearly not to seek proper settlement of disputes with China, but to violate China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests and put peace and stability in the South China Sea in jeopardy.

The arbitration was conducted according to unwarranted procedure and application of law, and was based on flawed evidence and facts. Such as it is, it will never be accepted by the Chinese people. Nor will it be recognized by anyone in the world who stands on the side of justice…

the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China solemnly declares that the award is null and void and has no binding force. China neither accepts nor recognizes it.

China’s Global Times contained a bitter, vitriolic editorial:

If the award were to be followed, China would be left with only a few isolated spots in the Nansha [Spratly] Islands without entitlement to any EEZ and could even be deprived of sovereignty of the waters surrounding the islands and islets. The majority of the Nansha Islands waters would be taken up by the EEZs claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam. Besides, China could not continue with its island construction. The existing facilities might be dismantled by these two countries if they could. With the related resources being owned by Manila and Hanoi in the future, China would have to withdraw its business and other activities from the area.

This not only outrageously denies China’s historic rights in the Nansha area and its legitimate maritime interests, but also overthrows the state of de facto control in the region including the Huangyan Island waters. This is ridiculous. The verdict has brazenly violated China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.

State television reacted to the ruling by showing a documentary showcasing China’s military might. China’s Foreign Ministry and Global Times (Beijing) and China’s Foreign Ministry

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, China, Philippines, South China Sea, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Spratly Islands, Nine-dash line
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