China rejects PH arbitration move

Carlos Santamaria

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(UPDATED) Beijing says it has enough evidence to back up its claims over the South China Sea

DISPUTED AREA. China claims virtually all of the West Philippine Sea even within the 200-nautical-mile Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. Graphic by Bardo Wu

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – China on Tuesday, February 19, formally rejected the arbitral proceedings initiated by the Philippines to resolve its territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing visited the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to submit a note verbal “stating that China rejects and returns the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim,” the DFA said in a statement.

In its diplomatic communication, China “reiterated its often stated position that it has indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea encompassed by its 9-dash line claim,” the statement added.

“This excessive claim is the core issue of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China,” said the DFA.

The department stressed that “China’s action will not interfere with the process of Arbitration initiated by the Philippines,” which will proceed under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and “a 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China.”

Article 9 of Annex VII says: If one of the parties to the dispute does not appear before the arbitral tribunal or fails to defend its case, the other party may request the tribunal to continue the proceedings and to make its award. Absence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings. Before making its award, the arbitral tribunal must satisfy itself not only that it has jurisdiction over the dispute but also that the claim is well founded in fact and law.”

“The Philippines remains committed to arbitration, which is a friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement that should be welcomed by all,” the DFA concluded.

NO TO ARBITRATION. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei. Photo from Chinese Foreign Ministry official website

PH ‘violates consensus’ – China

Meanwhile in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei insisted that the Notification and Statement of Claim presented by the Philippines “not only violate the consensus enshrined in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), but are also factually flawed and contain false accusations.”

China is committed to addressing the dispute through bilateral talks, Hong said during a regular press conference, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The spokesman noted that the DOC, signed by both countries states that disputes should be solved through talks between the nations directly involved.

Beijing has sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence to support its claim to all the areas administered from Nansha Island in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters.

“China hopes the Philippines will honor its commitment by not taking any action that could complicate the issue, positively respond to China’s proposal to establish a bilateral dialogue mechanism on maritime issues and work to solve the issue through bilateral negotiations,” said Hong.

Over the past two years Manila has complained about Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in enforcing its claims, particularly around areas believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves.

China’s stance led to a standoff last year with the Philippines over rich fishing grounds around Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop much closer to the Philippine coast than to China’s shores.

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