US think tank: Court apt to rule vs China
A UNITED Nations arbitration tribunal will most likely rule against China in the case brought by the Philippines against Beijing’s nine-dash-line claim to almost the entire South China Sea region, according to the director of a Washington-based think tank.
But while China may refuse to recognize the ruling, it would not want to be “branded an international outlaw,” so that an eventual compromise with the Philippines might be possible, said Gregory Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), in an analysis of the South China Sea situation in 2016.
Poling predicted that the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague “will almost certainly rule that China’s nine-dash line is not a valid maritime claim and that China is not entitled to any historic rights beyond the regime of territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).”
He said the decision of the tribunal “will be final and legally binding on both parties, despite Beijing’s refusal to take part in the proceedings or recognize the tribunal’s jurisdiction.”
“This will not affect China’s territorial claims to the disputed islands and rocks of the South China Sea, nor will it necessarily mean that Beijing cannot make large claims to the seabed and waters in the area. But it will amount to an order that China clarify its maritime claims based on entitlements from land features, not ambiguous dashes on a map,” he said.
A refusal to be bound by the ruling would “undermine China’s narrative that it is a responsible rising power that deserves a greater hand in global governance. It will make other countries wary of Chinese commitments and will drive regional states even closer to Tokyo and Washington,” Poling said.
“These costs to Beijing could make an eventual political compromise more appealing. China might agree to redefine the nine-dash line based on Unclos rather than historic rights and enter real negotiations in exchange for the Philippines dropping the case (which will remain open until both parties abide by the award) and agreeing to undertake joint economic development,” Poling said.
In Washington, a senior White House official said Friday the tribunal’s ruling would be binding on China despite its boycott.
White House Asia policy director Daniel Kritenbrink said the ruling will be binding on both the Philippines and China as parties to Unclos.
He said that at a recent summit, President Barack Obama and Southeast Asian leaders agreed on the need to respect such legal processes for resolving disputes.
Poling said that it will be a “much tenser” year in the South China Sea, particularly for the Southeast Asian claimants to disputed territories in the region like the Philippines.
“This promises to be a landmark year for the claimant countries and other interested parties in the South China Sea disputes,” he wrote.
Poling said these are the “dynamics” that will make this a watershed year: The awaited decision of the UN tribunal on the Philippines’ case against China; China’s installation of military infrastructure on reclaimed islands and their predicted air and naval patrols that will affect Filipino, Malaysian and Vietnamese fishermen; and “the involvement of greater powers” like the United States, Australia and Japan.
Poling said the presidential elections in the Philippines in May is one of the “important political transitions” in the region.
“But no matter who emerges as Manila’s next leader, his or her ability to substantially alter course on the South China Sea will be highly constrained by the emergence of the issue as a cause célèbre among many Filipinos who view Beijing with wariness bordering on outright fear,” he said.
The same dynamics are at play in Vietnam, where the reelection of Vietnamese leader Nguyen Phu Trong, who is generally seen as pro-Beijing, as the Communist Party chief is not expected to change much the course of Vietnam’s South China Sea policy. With an AP report
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