International tribunal’s ruling a rebuke to China: US expert

New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) The international tribunal’s ruling against China in its dispute with Philippines related to the South China Sea was a “rebuke” to Beijing, a US expert said on Wednesday and noted that it was also an opportunity for better negotiations between the parties concerned.

Peter Dutton, Director of China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College, said the decision should have sweeping effects and other countries will begin to reflect on their own claims in respect of the South China Sea.

“In my view it is a rebuke of the way the Chinese have behaved in the South China Sea. It is a major rebuke of power politics and major strengthening of the international system,” Dutton said through video-conferencing from the US.

He said there will be temptation to view the decision as some form of crisis, but “it is also an opportunity for better negotiations for parties”.

“Now there is a clear yardstick. Every party’s actions in South China Sea will be judged against it.”

China on Tuesday suffered a major diplomatic blow when The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that it violated the Philippines’ rights in the South China Sea. Beijing refused to accept the verdict, calling it “null and void”.

The tribunal accused China of interfering with the Philippines’ fishing and petroleum exploration, building artificial islands in the waters and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.

China’s expansive claims over South China Sea have been contested by several countries including the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan. Ties between China and Japan were strained by a territorial row over a group of islands in the East China Sea.

Dutton, who is also a professor of strategic studies, said the tribunal’s decision had created a rift between China and international community and it was not easy for China to build the bridge.

He said China has to factor in international opinion as also domestic opinion.

“We have to see what China will do, give time to see how China will behave. The ball is in China’s court,” he said, adding, that efforts should be made to find common ground and bring China back to full participation in the international system.

Asked about possibility of increased militarisation in the region by China, Dutton said he will be surprised if Beijing did so as it will essentially mean confrontation with the whole world.

Answering another query, he said at least two US ships were in the South China Sea on any given day.

“It is a sign that the US wants to make sure that conflict is off the table in South China Sea.”

Answering queries about the possibility of China imposing an air defence identification zone in South China Sea, Dutton said he did not think it would be done in the near future.

Dutton hoped there will be better lines of communication between China and Philippines.

He said countries had common interest in open order at sea and free flow of trade, commerce, finance and information.

Answering a query about imposing economic sanctions against China, Dutton said it was a possibility.

He said countries should be prepared to use sanctions to safeguard international order. “Countries need to have discussion. Don’t think we should be quick to impose them. We need to encourage them to behave in the right direction. Only if we see a more bellicose China, then think of sanctions,” he said.

To another query, he said there was more room for direct naval cooperation between the US and India in the Indian Ocean.



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