WASHINGTON — In a highly anticipated ruling, The Hague found that Beijing’s “nine-dash line” in South China Sea has no legal basis.
On Tuesday, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a unanimous award in Republic of Philippines v. People’s Republic of China, a case brought by the Philippines in 2013.
Manila’s 15-point case critically asked the tribunal to rule on the status of China’s so-called “nine-dash line“, a boundary that is the basis for its 69-year-old claim to roughly 85 per cent of the South China Sea.
Territorial claims from Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, and China make the South China Sea one of the most disputed places on the planet.
China, who claims the lion’s share of the region, has boycotted prior hearings and Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters, “We won’t accept any of their so-called materials, no matter what they are.”
The tribunal will apply the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in determining which countries can claim economic exploitation rights, based on geographic features.
According to the 1982 UNCLOS, islands grant their owners a 12 nautical mile radius of sovereign territorial waters.
Manila argued in closed court hearings that none of the islands, shoals and reefs in the Spratlys are large enough to grant an additional 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone for fishing and extracting seabed resources.
The court has no power of enforcement, but a victory for the Philippines could spur Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei to file similar cases.
What’s more, this contested region is home to $5 trillion in annual global trade, so the
tit for tat over crumbs of land in these waters isn’t for nothing.
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