South China Sea ruling

Views from China and the US on the South China Sea ruling

This week's award by an arbitral tribunal in favour of the Philippines in its case against China drew a range of views from analysts.

Nothing but a farce

Zhang Junshe
Research fellow at the China
Naval Research Institute,
Global Times

From China's perspective, the arbitration is nothing but a farce, engineered and supported by the US for the purpose of containing China. The arbitration, though self-claiming to focus on a dispute over maritime rights, cannot avoid territorial ownership and sovereignty issues, which are not included in the jurisdiction of any international arbitral tribunal.

Besides, the proceeding of the arbitration without China's attendance has resulted in a forced and unilateral award. China is being deprived by the US and the Philippines of the right to choose its own way of dealing with international disputes...

The US should understand that China will by no means accept unjust and unequal treaties forced upon it. This is a red line set up by its bitter history.

It is ironic that the biggest rogue disregarding international law is pretending to be a flag-bearer in this term. Washington has a blemished record of contempt of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and its decision in the 1986 Nicaragua v US case. The ICJ ruled that the US had violated international law by supporting rebels in Nicaragua and mining Nicaragua's harbours. The US refused to participate in the case and blocked the enforcement of the judgment by the United Nations Security Council. Despite the veneer of international law, the US actually believes in nothing but "might makes right".

As a non-signatory of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the US groundlessly demands China comply with the Convention. Although vowing to protect freedom of navigation from China, the US cannot find one example of China blocking international waterways in the South China Sea.


Pro-China supporters holding a demonstration outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong yesterday, in protest against an international court ruling that denied Beijing's claims to the South China Sea. PHOTO: REUTERS

As a pawn and puppet in this farce, the Philippines needs to realise that it might be the biggest victim of the Sino-US power game. The country's new President Rodrigo Duterte has the intention to draw back, stating that the Philippines is willing to negotiate with China even if the award is in its favour.

It is a good sign that Manila is re-calibrating its former dangerous approach. But it should understand that China won't engage in any talks with the Philippines on the basis of the award.

Why the law can't solve South China Sea conflict

Paul Gewirtz
Professor of constitutional law
and director of the Paul Tsai
China Centre at Yale Law School,
Wall Street Journal

Tuesday's decision underscores the limits of law in resolving these disputes in practice, as well as the urgent need to move ahead with negotiations, supported by prudent power politics...

The Obama administration must guard against escalation and reach out to other countries for quiet diplomatic discussions of our options. We cannot yet predict China's range of responses to the tribunal. The possibility exists that a rebuked China will launch new provocations, leading to a crisis that serves no one's interests - and the United States and its allies must be ready if China seeks to use force to get its way. Additionally, a legally empowered Philippines might ask the United States to use its military to enforce what the tribunal cannot enforce, which would itself create major risks.

Instead, the United States should encourage our Filipino allies - with their legal victory in hand - to pursue direct negotiations with China as the best next step in looking for real-world, peaceful solutions. China has long demanded negotiations, so this is the testing hour for China's good faith.

Neither country should insist on preconditions to such talks. China should not insist that the Philippines renounce the arbitration award, and the Philippines should not insist that China accept the legal rights awarded by the tribunal. Such demands would doom negotiations before they start.

The path of negotiations will be uncertain and difficult. But the Philippines' position will be significantly strengthened by the tribunal's award. Negotiations should begin with a focus on lowering tensions, looking for trade-offs and pursuing common development projects, even if ultimate questions of sovereignty are temporarily set aside...

Since the United States has not ratified the Law of the Sea convention, it is in an awkward position in demanding Chinese compliance. The US Senate should advance ratification as an urgent national security priority. For now, we should try to speak and act jointly with countries that have ratified the convention.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Views from China and the US'. Print Edition | Subscribe