The Hague: A UN-backed tribunal is on Tuesday is delivering its verdict on a Philippine challenge over Chinese-occupied territory in the South China Sea. The arbitration court in The Hague has said China has “no historic rights” or title to over the waters of the South China Sea.
China ‘does not accept and does not recognise’ Hague tribunal judgement, says Xinhua.
Beijing views the South China Sea as its own backyard, a place where it is entitled to free, uninterrupted rein and where its growing navy should be able to operate unhampered.|
The five-member tribunal has the power to make a decision that cannot be appealed. However, it has no means to enforce the verdict, with compliance left to the parties concerned.
Beijing has said from the start that the tribunal is invalid and has boycotted its proceedings. President Xi Jinping said China will never compromise on sovereignty and warned it was “not afraid of trouble”.
But it is unclear how aggressively China will react. Commentators say the 1.2 million square miles of water are a potential flashpoint for regional conflict.
That’s because scientists believe that the seabed could contain unexploited oil, gas and minerals. But the sea’s key value is strategic. Shipping lanes vital to world trade pass through it, carrying everything from raw materials to finished products, as well as enormous quantities of oil.
China’s land-reclamation programme has been particularly aggressive. Satellite pictures now show inhabited islands where there was once only submerged coral and many have multiple facilities, including some with runways long enough for huge planes.
Beijing insists its intent is peaceful but the US and others suspect China is trying to assert its sovereignty claims and say that it could pose threats to the free passage of ships. Washington says the waters are international and regularly sends its warships there on so-called “Freedom of Navigation” missions.
China says these missions are provocations and warns the US not to interfere. It regularly stages its own exercises in the area as a show of force. The Philippines hopes that today’s favourable ruling will help to build international pressure on China to make concessions and reverse or stall its expansionist efforts in the sea.
Manila also hopes a win will give it much-needed leverage in any negotiations with China, including on signing a code of conduct for the sea.