Rival countries claim the territory of the South China Sea. The conflict is not a new one, however, on July 12, 2016, it intensified as The Hague International Tribunal backed the case of the Philippines. Since 2013, the country has been fighting China over the sovereign rights to the territories in the South China Sea.
For years, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have claimed territories in the South China Sea. According to BBC, it is a battle over territory and sovereignty over the commodities of the oceanic area and the Spratlys and the Paracels. The sea is important to all the rival countries because it is a major shipping route and a food supplier for the people across the region. Also, the land territories, though mostly uninhabited, have many natural resources around them.
China demands the biggest part of the region when taking into consideration the historical data. Vietnam denies China’s historical rights and claims the same territories, having documents to prove its own rights over them. Also, the Philippines claim the same area, by invoking geographical proximity as their main support. Moreover, Brunei and Malaysia say that territories in the South China Sea drop within their economic exclusion zones, as established by the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
During recent decades, the rival countries tried to gain the territories by force. China, Vietnam, and the Philippines fought over the years, producing numerous casualties. Then, in 2013, the Philippines decided to take the case to an international tribunal, allowing them to decide the claims. According to BBC, China would have preferred a bilateral negotiation, but their neighbors disagreed, considering that the size of China would give them an advantage.
On July 12, 2016, The Hague International Tribunal stated that China has no historical rights in the area of the South China Sea and that it violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights. According to BBC, China not only boycotted the proceedings but also rejected the decision of the United Nations-backed court.
China Rejects Tribunal Ruling About the South China Sea
Although the tribunal’s decision is not China-friendly, the Chinese government declared, according to Al Jazeera, that it will take all the required actions to protect its supremacy in the South China Sea. Moreover, the Chinese President Xi Jinping affirmed that the ruling, which will not be accepted by China, will not affect the country under any circumstances.
The President’s statement triggered some reactions. Ruth Wedgwood, a professor of international law and diplomacy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies declared for NPR that “this may be mostly a fight over pride and dominance and political grandeur.” Also, she emphasized the importance of the territories in the South China Sea, showing what is the fight about: “It’s an international waterway, and therefore the freedom of navigation is crucial for us and for other countries that want to be able to maintain international commerce.”
Singapore and the U.S. Claims Peace
Singapore is not one of the countries involved in the battle over the territories in the South China Sea. However, on July 12, after The Hague tribunal made its decision, Singapore’s officials made a statement, urging parties to “fully respect the legal and diplomatic processes.”
According to Channel NewsAsia, the Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that the country, which neither is a claimant state nor takes sides in the conflict, wants peace and an implementation of the ruling, “without resorting to the threat or use of force.”
Also, as Al Jazeera stated, the U.S. agreed with the tribunal’s decision and declared that “the ruling should be treated as final and binding.” The White House spokesman Josh Earnest considered that it is a necessary step in order to avoid the “engagement in escalatory or provocative action” in the territories of the South China Sea.
By Bianca-Ramona Dumitru
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Al Jazeera: Beijing blames Philippines for South China Sea trouble
BBC: Why is the South China Sea contentious?
Channel New Asia: Singapore urges ‘self-restraint’ from all parties after South China Sea ruling
NPR: China’s Claims To South China Sea Represent ‘A Fight Over Pride’
Image Courtesy of U.S. Pacific Fleet‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License