- Chinese Ambassador to Ghana says her country won’t accept arbitration court’s ruling
By Shola Oshunkeye
ANY time from now, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague would deliver its ruing in the case that the Philippines filed against China over the disputed South China Sea. In the case she filed with the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea in 2013, the Philippines has been contesting the sovereignty and maritime delineation of the tiny islands which, she claimed, “China had been illegally occupying” since 1960.
The entire area of the South China Sea has, for decades, been subject of a lingering dispute between China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The six countries in the dispute maintain similar claims as China and the Philippines, who are at the forefront. At the heart of the dispute are territorial claim and demarcation of territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) generated by the territory. The fuel stoking the fire are the natural resources there and other advantages in terms of security and monitoring.
Now, the arbitration court is set to deliver its judgement and the region is quaking under fresh tension. It is widely believed that the court may rule in favour of the Philippines. And China has been drumming it loud and clear to whoever cares to listen, especially the United States and Japan, that it will not accept the ruling. Rather, the country prefers “consultation and negotiation” among the littoral countries without any external interference, an apparent reference to the United States.
Indeed, the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Professor Sun Baohong, made all these crystal clear in an article she wrote and circulated in the media in Accra, the capital, recently.
“Recently,” she began, “the Philippines unilaterally initiated and obstinately pushed forward with international arbitral proceedings, regarding the dispute with China in the South China Sea, stirring up international
controversy. The Chinese Government stands firm on its position not to accept or participate in the arbitration.”
She then proceeded to provide legal justification for her country’s position.
“First,” Professor Baohong continued, “the unilateral initiation of arbitration by the Philippines is a violation of the agreement with China and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS explicitly stipulates that the state party has the right to seek dispute settlement of its own choice. Actually, China and the Philippines have already reached agreement in joint declaration, joint communiqué and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) on resolving relevant disputes in
the South China Sea through negotiations.
“But the Philippines, without engaging in any negotiations with China on any claims in the arbitration, falsely claimed that it had exhausted bilateral means, and unilaterally initiated the arbitration. The behaviour of the Philippines undermines the international morality, international law and its basic principle Pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be kept), as well as the purpose, authority and integrity of UNCLOS.
“Second, UNCLOS does not have jurisdiction over the disputes, concerning territory and maritime delimitation between China and the Philippines. The Philippines’ requests are, in essence, about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation.
“Territorial issues are subject to general international law, not UNCLOS. With respect to maritime delimitation, China’s declaration on optional exceptions in accordance with Article 298 of UNCLOS excludes disputes concerning maritime delimitation from compulsory dispute settlement procedures provided for in UNCLOS- more than 30 countries have made similar declarations, including four permanent members of the UN Security Council except the US which has not ratified UNCLOS.
“China’s non-acceptance and nonparticipation in the arbitration conforms to international laws, UNCLOS included.
“The Arbitral Tribunal’s forceful handling of the case and exercise of jurisdiction is wilful expansion and abuse of power in nature. “The acts of the Arbitral Tribunal violated the provisions of UNCLOS and
deviated from the purpose of peaceful settlement of international disputes.
“Third, some countries from outside the region, which are not the parties concerning the South China Sea issue, out of their political and military calculations and regardless of the sovereignty, security and interests of littoral countries, flex military muscles, conduct close-in reconnaissance and even go as far as to send military vessels and aircraft into the waters and airspace in neighbouring China’s South China Sea islands.
“Moreover, they instigate disputes among the regional countries and support certain countries in the region to magnify and complicate the disputes to raise tensions in the South China Sea for their own parochial interests.
“These irresponsible actions, which are typical double standards, not only sabotage the endeavour of the countries directly concerned, including China, to resolve disputes peacefully, but also pose threats to the freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as peace and security in the South China Sea.
“The root cause of the South China Sea issue is the invasion and illegal occupation by certain countries of some islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Islands.
But China, the biggest victim on the South China Sea issue, has all along exercised great restraint and committed itself to resolving disputes through negotiations and consultations.
“China supports and advocates the “dual track” approach initiated by ASEAN Member States to handle the South China Sea issue, i.e. while the relevant disputes are to be resolved through negotiations
and consultations between the states directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and according to international law, China and ASEAN Member States will work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. In recent years, maritime cooperation under DOC and the consultations of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) is progressing through our joint efforts. “The South China Sea has maintained peace and stability on the whole
and the freedom of navigation and
overflight has never seen any problems.
During the presidency of Gloria Arroyo, the Philippines conducted cooperation
on three-dimensional seismic exploration with Vietnam and China in the
South China Sea.”
The ambassador would not quit. She then unveiled what she termed as “China’s
proposals” for lasting peace in the region. First, on the South China Sea
issue, Prof. Baohong said “China’s proposal of “sovereignty belongs to China,
shelve disputes and pursue common development” is feasible.”
On the issue of external interference, she said her country and, indeed, all the
littoral countries in the matter “have the wisdom and capacity to resolve the
South China Sea issue properly.” As proof of that, she cited the recent visit
by China’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Wang Yi, to Brunei, Cambodia and Laos where
a four-point consensus was reached.
They include: “Disputes over some Nansha islands and reefs are not an issue
between China and ASEAN, and should not affect China-ASEAN relations;
“The right enjoyed by sovereign states to choose on their own ways to
solve disputes in line with the international law should be respected, and an
imposition of unilateral will on others is opposed;
“Disputes over territorial and maritime rights and interests should be resolved
through dialogues and consultations by parties directly concerned
under Article 4 of DOC; and “China and ASEAN countries are able
to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea through cooperation.”
Again, she underscored that with the recent visit of China State Councillor,
Mr. Yang Jiechi, to Malaysia, where both sides agreed to settle South China
Sea-related issues through DOC and to speed up the completion of COC.
The Ambassador then concluded by reiterating the commitment of both
China and ASEAN to the consensus in DOC, adding that: “Countries outside
the region should play a constructive role in supporting our efforts in maintaining
peace and security in the South China Sea rather than the other way round.
“We are delighted that the 7th Ministerial Meeting of China and Arab States
Cooperation passed the Doha Declaration, which stressed that Arab states
support a peaceful settlement of territorial and maritime disputes between
China and relevant countries through friendly consultation and negotiation
based on bilateral agreements and consensus among regional countries.
“The right of sovereign states and signatory parties to UNCLOS to independently
choose the way to settle disputes in accordance with law must be respected.”