Beijing won't accept Hague court's ruling on arbitration

The alleged land reclamation by China at Subi reef is seen from Pagasa island in the Spratlys on May 11, 2015.
The alleged land reclamation by China at Subi reef is seen from Pagasa island in the Spratlys on May 11, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

China has rejected an international court's decision to allow arbitration on South China Sea claims brought forth by the Philippines, saying it is "null and void, and has no binding effect on China".

The Foreign Ministry, in a statement yesterday, stressed that when it comes to issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, Beijing will not accept any solution imposed on it, or any unilateral resort to a third-party dispute settlement.

It also accused Manila of political provocation and of trying to "negate China's territorial sovereignty".

"We will not participate and we will not accept the arbitration," Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin was quoted as telling reporters.

"The ruling or the result of arbitration will not affect China's position," he added. "It won't affect China's sovereignty rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea. Our rights will not be undermined."

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled late on Thursday that it had jurisdiction over a case filed by the Philippines, which contests China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea. Its decision clears the way for Manila to argue the merits of its case. A new hearing will be held behind closed doors, with a final decision not expected until next year.

Trade worth US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) annually passes through the waters, which are also claimed in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

The claims have raised regional tensions in recent years. On Tuesday, a US guided-missile destroyer sailed through the contested waters, sparking a warning by Beijing.

Citing historical records and maps, China has long insisted that its claims over the 3.5 million sq km area are indisputable. It rejects arbitration, preferring to negotiate directly with other claimants.

Beijing has argued that The Hague court has no jurisdiction on sovereignty, which it says is the basis of Manila's case. But the Philippines counters that its case is not about sovereignty, but that China's claims are inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Foreign Ministry statement yesterday said the Philippines' actions amounted to "political provocation under the cloak of law".

It charged that bringing the case to an international court was not an effort to settle disputes, but an attempt to "negate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights".

It added that both sides had, since the 1990s, repeatedly reaffirmed in bilateral documents that their disputes should be resolved through negotiations. It called the Philippines' decision to file its case in 2013 a "breach of this consensus" which damages mutual trust.

The ministry also urged the Philippines to "change its course and return to the right track" of resolving South China Sea disputes through bilateral consultation.

"The Philippines' attempt to negate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea through arbitral proceeding will lead to nothing," it said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2015, with the headline 'Beijing won't accept Hague court's ruling on arbitration'. Subscribe