SOUTH CHI SEA DISPUTE
THE HAGUE/BEIJING, July 12: Chi on Tuesday suffered a major diplomatic blow when an intertiol tribul ruled that it violated the Philippines’ rights in the South Chi Sea. Beijing refused to accept the verdict, calling it “null and void”.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague accused Chi 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, media reports said.
The tribul held that fishermen from the Philippines had traditiol fishing rights in Scarborough Shoal in the South Chi Sea, and that Chi had interfered with these rights by restricting their access.
The court held that Chinese law enforcement vessels unlawfully created a serious risk of collision when they physically obstructed Philippine vessels in the region, the South Chi Morning Post reported.
The South Chi Sea is a margil sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straits to the Straits of Taiwan, of around 3.5 million sq km.
The South Chi Sea is a resource rich strategic waterway through which more than $5 trillion worth of global trade is shipped each year. Beijing has placed runways and radar facilities on new islets it has created in the disputed sea after piling huge amounts of sand onto reefs.
The tribul’s much-anticipated verdict demolished Chi’s expansive claims and its historical nine-dash line in the disputed South Chi Sea.
“There is no legal basis for Chi to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line,” the court said.
“Chi has violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights with respect to its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”
Chi reacted angrily the ruling, saying it did not accept or recognize it. “The award is null and void and has no binding force,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Chi’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South Chi Sea should under no circumstances be affected by such rulings, it said.
Xinhua news agency issued a brief report reiterating Beijing’s stance of rejecting the tribul’s authority over the case which Manila brought against Beijing.
Chi claims almost all of the South Chi Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by others. Beijing refused to participate in the case and has denounced it as a plot against Chi led by the US.
Besides the Philippines, Vietm, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims with Chi in the South Chi Sea, one of the world’s busiest trade routes.
Beijing said the unilateral case filed by Philippines was “out of bad faith.” It also accused the UN-backed court of muddying the waters.
“It aims not to resolve the relevant disputes between Chi and the Philippines, or to maintain peace and stability in the South Chi Sea, but to deny Chi’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South Chi Sea,” the statement said.
Beijing said that Philippine had earlier agreed to resolve the dispute mutually but by taking it to the tribul, had violated the intertiol laws.
Chi, however, said it was ready to continue to resolve the dispute peacefully by negotiation “on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with intertiol law”.
“Pending fil settlement, Chi is also ready to ... enter into provisiol arrangements of a practical ture, including joint development in relevant maritime areas, in order to achieve win-win results and maintain peace and stability in the South Chi Sea.”
Chi said it respected the freedom of vigation and overflight enjoyed by all states in the South Chi Sea ... “to ensure the safety of and the unimpeded access to the intertiol shipping lanes” in the region.
The ruling from the Hague was harsh on Beijing.
Chi caused severe harm to the coral reef environment in the South Chi Sea, the court said.
The Chinese authorities were aware that Chinese fishermen had harvested endangered sea turtles, coral and giant clams on a “substantial scale” in the region “using methods that inflict severe damage on the coral reef environment”, it said.
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 Chi Sea”.
“The decision upholds intertiol law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS. The Philippines reiterates its abiding commitment to efforts of pursing the peaceful resolution and magement of disputes with the view of promoting and enhancing peace and stability in the regions”.
Chi’s activity in the Spratly Islands, a disputed group of reefs and islands in the South Chi Sea more than 500 miles from the Chinese mainland, had prompted the US to send vy destroyers to patrol near the islands twice in recent months.
The announcement of the tribul’s ruling came as Chi and its main rival claimants went on high alert amid heightened tensions over the maritime disputes. (IANS)