South China Sea > Focus
Monday, July 18, 2016, 17:05

Forum speakers: What they said

By China Daily

There is ample evidence for China to reject the ruling in the South China Sea arbitration established at the unilateral request of the Philippine government.

Forum speakers: What they saidThe United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has provided its signatories with the option to make an exception in cases concerning maritime boundary delimitation. More than 30 countries have taken the option, including UN Security Council permanent members Britain, France and Russia.

On this basis, China ratified the convention in 1996, when it made a declaration reaffirming its sovereignty over all its archipelagoes and islands, including those in the South China Sea. In 2006, China made another declaration, under Article 298 of the convention, that any maritime boundary delimitation issues are excluded from the jurisdiction of any dispute resolution mechanism under the convention.

Another reason China declined to attend the arbitration proceedings was that, in 2002, a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was agreed, promoting bilateral negotiation among disputing nations over sovereignty issues, and calling for the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea for all nations of the world in accordance with UNCLOS.

To have attended the arbitration proceedings at The Hague would undermine a process that has long been in place to resolve the dispute in a bilateral and peaceful manner.

Tung Chee-hwa, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference


The modern system of the law of the sea consists of not only the UNCLOS, but also rules of general international law, which are complementary to each other. It is wrong to overstress the importance of the UNCLOS, while negating rights such as historic rights in general international law.

Forum speakers: What they saidThe UNCLOS is a "package-deal instrument" reached upon by the negotiating parties. Only by interpreting and applying the convention in good faith and in a comprehensive and integral manner, can its inherent balance be maintained and its authority be upheld.

Disputes on the sovereignty over land territory are clearly beyond the purview of the interpretations or application of the UNCLOS. Any attempt to settle such disputes by mechanically applying the procedures under the UNCLOS is manifestly an abuse of the procedures.

 Li Shishi, president of the Chinese Society of International Law


Some of the legal findings presented by the tribunal are controversial to say the least. I was surprised that the case had made it to the court.

Forum speakers: What they saidIt is questionable whether the Arbitral Tribunal was entitled to render a ruling in the particular case as China had already made the declaration in 2006 excluding issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation from the compulsory dispute settlements by any tribunal.

According to international law and international jurisprudence, when a third-party settlement is concerned, it must be based on the consent of the states involved.

Negotiations are open to all the parties. If you want to reach a settlement that will eliminate tensions, there is no point to have an award which is going to increase tensions.

Given the nature of the issue, bilateral negotiation remained the best way to resolve the dispute.

The ultimate aim should be the peaceful settlement of a dispute. Judicial settlement is not an end in itself. It is the means of an end, and that is what we should strive for.

Abdul Gadire Koroma, former judge at the International Court of Justice


As some big powers were clearly behind the case and pulling the strings, it is easy to predict that the ruling would be in favor of the Philippines. But I was still shocked to learn the tribunal did not admit any of the rights that China should enjoy in the South China Sea. The ruling is apparently unfair.

Forum speakers: What they said

The tribunal had even ruled beyond what the Philippines had put before them - the Philippines had only filed an application to reconsider nine geographical "features", but the tribunal made interpretations on all the geographical features on the Nansha Islands.

The Chinese government should get ready to face various challenges that it may encounter in such fields as foreign diplomacy and military confrontation.

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies



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