China / Society

Experts say China's stance on South China Sea arbitration fully justified

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-06-10 14:46

BEIJING - The Philippines' unilateral move to bring a maritime dispute with China to an international tribunal won't help resolve the problem and the right way forward is to seek settlement through bilateral talks, several foreign experts told Xinhua in recent interviews.

While expressing support for China's position of non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration of the China-Philippine dispute over islands in the South China Sea, they said that Manila's arbitration act runs against the spirit of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and reneges on its previous promises.

Stefan Talmon, director of the Institute of Public International Law at the University of Bonn, said the arbitration court in The Hague, which was formed according to Annex VII of the UNCLOS, does not have jurisdiction over territorial disputes.

Issues of territorial sovereignty, he noted, are not governed by the UNCLOS, but by customary international law.

Saeed Chaudhry, chair of the Islamabad Council for International Affairs, also believes the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no jurisdiction to hear or judge the case.

The court should have rejected Philippines' arbitration request because the Philippines itself is "illegally occupying islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands."

"By considering all the facts in the issue, China has complete right and comprehensive reasons to reject the arbitration proceedings and not to accept and recognize any verdict by the arbitration," he added.

Meanwhile, experts also noticed that before Manila initiated the arbitration in 2013, it had promised China in various political documents to resolve their South China Sea disputes via negotiations.

For example, China and the Philippines, along with other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), signed in 2002 the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea.

The Philippines' arbitration move runs contrary to the Article IV of the document -- which stipulates that the parties concerned resolve their South China Sea disputes "through friendly consultations and negotiations."

While pressing for its arbitration case, the Philippines ignored diplomatic channels as well as China's willingness to negotiate, said Chaudhry.

What has happened so far surrounding the matter proves that "the Philippines and some hidden forces have ill plans and aims to disturb peace and stability" in the region, he added.

Instead of unilaterally resorting to arbitration, the right path forward regarding the South China Sea issue, as China has said repeatedly, is to conduct consultations and negotiations between directly concerned parties.

The impending decision by the arbitration court over the issue would not make the settlement of disputes in the South China Sea any easier at least, said Talmon, adding that the ruling may even be counterproductive to the solution of the problems.

Pakistani political and strategic analyst Sultan Mahamoud Ali noted that China has been very successful in resolving territorial issues with neighbors via bilateral talks.

China has already settled land boundary with 12 of its 14 neighbors and it is committed to the development of good neighborly relations with other countries in the region, including the Philippines, he said.

For Manila, it could achieve better results if it chooses to engage in direct talks with China, he added.

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