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UN court may still get China side in sea row

MANILA, Philippines–Even if China refuses to take part in the arbitration case over disputed waters filed by the Philippines, its side would still likely be taken into account by the UN arbitral tribunal hearing the case.

This was stated on Thursday by Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose, as the UN tribunal’s Dec. 15 deadline for China to submit a response to the Philippine arbitration draws near.

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The UN tribunal is expected to consider the position paper the Chinese foreign ministry issued last weekend on China’s response to the Philippine arbitration case, according to Jose.

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Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose. AP FILE PHOTO

“Of course the amount of information would be different if China [officially] submitted a response instead of the UN tribunal just looking at what [information] was available,” Jose told reporters.

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He also said the UN tribunal would probably take into account a recent book that was published on China’s position on the Philippine arbitration case.

Titled “The South China Sea Arbitration: A Chinese Perspective,” the book was edited by Stefen Talmon and Bing Jia.

On Sunday, the Chinese foreign ministry released on its website a lengthy position paper on Beijing’s response to the Philippines’ case, questioning China’s nine-dash-line claim of almost the entire South China Sea, including maritime features within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Beijing said the UN tribunal had no jurisdiction over the case because it had to do with questions on territorial sovereignty and not maritime entitlements.

But China said its position paper should not be taken to mean that it is accepting or taking part in the proceedings of the UN tribunal.

At a press briefing, Jose said that with China’s declaration in its position paper that it will not participate in the arbitration, the Department of Foreign Affairs expects that the UN tribunal would ask Manila to answer some questions on the case.

“And if we’ll be asked to go to The Hague for oral arguments, then that could take place maybe in the middle of next year. We anticipate the court to hand over its decision maybe early 2016,” Jose said, replying to what would happen next after the Dec. 15 deadline has lapsed.

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Asked whether China’s participation in the arbitration proceedings would have expedited the resolution of the case, Jose said that if at all, this would make the proceedings even longer.

Asked whether China’s nonparticipation was to the advantage of the Philippines, he answered “maybe.”

Jose said Manila would hold bilateral talks with Beijing on the South China Sea dispute only after the tribunal hands down its decision.

“If there is now a clarification of maritime entitlements, that’s a strong basis for having talks with China—but not before,” he said.

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TAGS: China, Philippines, sea dispute, sea row, territorial dispute, UN, UN arbitral tribunal, UN court
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