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Lies and exceptions in Manila's case

By Zhao Yishui and Liu Haiyang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-07-05 07:47:01

Since the South China Sea arbitral tribunal, set up on the Philippines' request, issued its first "award" on jurisdiction and admissibility, the lawfare between China, on one side, and the United States with its allies and partners, on the other, has focused on the legality of the tribunal's jurisdiction over the case. After the arbitral tribunal issues its final "award" on July 12, the Sino-US lawfare will change accordingly.

The US side seems well prepared for this change. Besides massing the South China Sea with its defense forces, the US and its allies have also more strongly demanded that China respect the tribunal's final ruling. This means the Sino-US lawfare will revolve around the legal consequences of the ruling. The conflict, for example, will be on whether the ruling is binding on China or not, its status in international law and whether its non-recognition is equivalent to rejection of international law. These points will be used by the US and China to gain global diplomatic support.

Generally, an arbitral tribunal's ruling is binding on both parties. But the exception proves the rule. It is fairly generally accepted under international law that the excess of power may be treated as a nullity. That's exactly the position taken by China that the arbitral tribunal exercised jurisdiction ultra vires and any of its decisions have no legal effects. Since these exceptions are known only by a small group of legal experts, the US and its allies claim the arbitration court's ruling is binding on China, while China has to make extra efforts to explain to the international community why the "award" cannot be applied to it. The US and its allies will use this advantage to put pressure on China to abide by the "award".

Lies and exceptions in Manila's case

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