What regional newspapers say about the South China Sea ruling

A close-up view of the cover page of the ruling documents in the South China Sea arbitration issue, made available by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, on July 12, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
An aerial view of alleged artificial islands built by China in disputed waters in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines. PHOTO: EPA

In a surprisingly strong and sweeping ruling, a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague said on Tuesday (July 12) that China's claims to the South China Sea were invalid.

The case was brought by the Philippines against China which claims almost all of the strategically vital sea. Its claims overlap those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Here's a quick look at what some regional newspapers are saying about the ruling:

Beijing may have lost the court case, but it still rules the South China Sea: SCMP

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post published a commentary by American journalist Tom Plate who says from the standpoint of the world, this week is not Beijing's best week ever.

He said although China had long ago claimed that Manila's case was frivolous and even provocative, it was - as a factual matter - a signed and sealed member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and thus under some obligation to respect the process.

But Beijing made a tactical blunder, says Mr Plate, author of the Giants Of Asia biography series. Instead of "settling" the maritime dispute with the Philippines "out of court", China chose to hold defiantly to its position that the Hague court was not competent to address these issues, while continuing to build and expand facilities.

He said the Chinese government's first wave of reactions to the Hague ruling will probably prove negative, dismissive and even spiteful. But given enough time, cooler heads in Beijing will locate an actual silver lining in this cloud.

"Having accomplished so much in its expansion of groundbreaking claims and indeed building a physical military presence in the South China Sea, it can now afford to take the high road on these high seas and begin to negotiate with Hanoi and Manila and other claimants and concerned countries,'' he says.

Seoul's China dilemma deepens after South China Sea ruling: The Korea Herald

The Korea Herald says the ruling will deepen Seoul's dilemma as the US will likely call for its ally to speak up on China's assertiveness in the region in pursuit of joint action.

With its strategic rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific, the US has repeatedly been raising the need for South Korea to step up its response to China's assertive push in the region, says the newspaper.

US President Barack Obama said after his summit with South Korean President Park Geun Hye last October that he expects Seoul to "speak out just as we do" when China fails to follow international norms and rules.

"Now that the areas surrounding low-tide elevations have been ruled as international waters, the US may seek joint patrol operations with its allies - most likely Japan, Australia and South Korea," analyst Lee Ki Beom says.

"While Japan and Australia would willingly take part, Seoul would have to come up with legitimate reasons to refuse the request or join for a few hours when its ship returns from the Gulf of Aden as an ally's gesture. It will take political judgment."

China has chance to ease disputes: The China Post

The China Post in Taiwan says even before the ruling was announced, Chinese authorities had been lobbying furiously around the world for support for China's position of not accepting or recognising any ruling made by the international tribunal.

This is a strategy that it had used with some success in the past, in particular when it was criticised for its human rights record, according to the commentary.

For example, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee in 2010 awarded the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China," Beijing responded violently against the award and against the Nobel Committe, and organised a boycott of the award ceremony in Oslo.

The commentary said it is striking how China's words criticising the United States, the Philippines and the arbitral tribunal are reminiscent of its criticisms of the Nobel Committee.

Since China has insisted that negotiation, not arbitration, is the only way to resolve territorial disputes, it will be under some pressure to produce an outcome that is seen as reasonable, says the commentary.

"This is the best that can be expected. If Chinese holds negotiations with the Philippines in good faith and they are productive, then it is likely to ease China's disputes with other countries as well. It's up to China which way to go."

After South China Sea ruling, could tiny Okinotorishima be the next flash point? : Japan Times

Japan Times says the next flash point to emerge could be a bit closer to home - Okinotorishima, an atoll about 1,740 km south of Tokyo

Controlled by Japan but also claimed by Taiwan, the atoll where just two small outcrops jut out at high tide is seen by Tokyo as an economic and strategic outpost in a volatile region.

The only hitch? Critics say it is effectively a man-made islet, similar to the dredged Chinese features the court dismissed as mere "rocks," since it cannot support human life and could even disappear under the waves in a strong typhoon.

To fend off claims that Okinotorishima is not an island and not entitled to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Tokyo has invested heavily not in reclaiming land but in adding coral reefs and concrete embankments to protect the existing and crafted environment.

But Beijing has been particularly critical over Tokyo's EEZ claim, despite its own man-made islets in the South China Sea. Okinotorishima sits in strategic waters, in between two island chains that separate China from the Pacific - an area where Chinese and US forces would likely collide in any potential conflict.

Experts say that by maintaining effective control of Okinotorishima and the resulting EEZ, Japan could create a net that limits access to the area and beyond by Chinese ships and nuclear submarines.

How to deal with the South China Sea dispute: Jakarta Globe

A columnist in Indonesia's Jakarta Globe says the country should take reference from its territorial dispute with Malaysia when dealing with the South China Sea. Mr Arizka Warganegara, a lecturer at Lampung University, says the government's failure to successfully lobby and its lack of diplomatic capacity resulted in the loss of two islands to Malaysia: Sipadan and Ligitan.

He outlines several approaches to dealing with th e South China Sea dispute. A diplomatic approach could be the most effective way: By engaging and intensifying diplomatic communication with the Philippines and Asean, Indonesia can ensure a stronger political bargaining position against the Chinese government and attract international sympathy.

Another approach is to recognise outer islands within the Indonesian archipelago and to give prority to issues concerning the communities there, such as their health and education.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.