World / Asia-Pacific

Arbitration cannot solve South China Sea dispute: Austrian expert

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-06-29 17:26

VIENNA - An Austrian expert has said that arbitration cannot solve the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines.

"It is a principle of international law that all sides must agree on the arbitration," Padraig Lysaght said in a recent interview with Xinhua. "Otherwise, the result of the arbitration is not binding."

The Philippines unilaterally filed in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, the Netherlands, an arbitration case against China over South China Sea disputes in January 2013.

China maintains that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case, which is in essence about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation.

"It is perfectly legal to simply not accept this award. I don't think the award can solve the problem," Lysaght said, adding that modern international law cannot provide a suitable solution to every problem.

Meanwhile, Lysaght, a historian who wrote his dissertation about the South China Sea, said historical arguments should not be completely discarded in the South China Sea dispute.

"Many arguments in the dispute over the South China Sea islands are based on historical events," Lysaght told Xinhua.

In the Ming Dynasty, China was an influential power in the South China Sea, he said. "Not in a military way, but culturally. All neighboring countries have been culturally influenced by China."

"Old cartography mapping these islands does exist. The oldest of these maps are clearly Chinese. Even Vietnam or the Philippines uses ancient Chinese maps for their arguments," he said.

Currently, one of the problems is that not only the littoral states but also the United States are involved in the dispute, according to Lysaght.

"The United States sees their hegemonical claims in this area challenged," Lysaght said.

Lysaght said military actions in the area could be interpreted as provocative, adding, "It is not necessary to provoke each other."

What is positive in the dispute is that all littoral states have agreed on a code of conduct, Lysaght said, referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002.

In addition, there is an exemplary agreement between China and Vietnam on the development of the Beibu Gulf, a half-closed bay surrounded by Chinese and Vietnamese territory and a traditional fishing area for the two countries. "This is a model solution for this region," the expert said.

In 2000, both countries signed agreements on the demarcation of the Beibu Gulf and fishing cooperation in the area.

In 2012, they established expert working groups, which specialize in maritime cooperation on less sensitive issues.

Since then, China and Vietnam have signed cooperation agreements on two programs, which have helped strengthen bilateral maritime cooperation.

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