Amsterdam, July 12 (IANS) An international arbitration tribunal on Tuesday ruled against China’s claims to rights in the South China Sea, backing a case brought in by the Philippines. Beijing has trashed the ruling as “null and void”.
“There was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’,” the Permanent Court of Arbitration said, referring to a demarcation line on a 1947 map of the sea.
The South China Sea is a resource-rich strategic waterway through which more than $5 trillion worth of world trade is shipped each year.
The Philippines, which brought the dispute to the tribunal in 2013, welcomed the ruling, while China has reacted angrily to reject the award.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by others.
China has said it has historic rights over the resource-rich sea and declared that the tribunal award “is null and void and has no binding force. China neither accepts nor recognizes it”.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday said that “China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea shall under no circumstances be affected by those awards. China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards”.
It said that “regarding territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China”.
It said it will continue to work with countries directly concerned to resolve the disputes in the South China Sea through negotiations and consultations “on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law”.
The tribunal said China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights and had caused “severe harm to the coral reef environment” by building artificial islands.
China has placed runways and radar facilities on new islets in the disputed Sea, built by piling huge amounts of sand onto reefs.
China’s activity in the Spratly Islands, a disputed group of reefs and islands in the South China Sea more than 500 miles from the Chinese mainland, prompted the US to send Navy destroyers to patrol near the islands twice in recent months.
In its statement welcoming the award, the Philippines said it “strongly affirms its respect” for the “milestone decision as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea”.
“The decision upholds international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS. The Philippines reiterates its abiding commitment to efforts of pursing the peaceful resolution and management of disputes with the view of promoting and enhancing peace and stability in the regions”.