World / Europe

China's rights over South China Sea 'unaffected' by Tribunal ruling

By Cecily Liu in London ( Updated: 2016-07-26 05:13

China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights will not be affected by the ruling from unilaterally initiated arbitration by the Philippines on the South China Sea issue announced in July, a top Chinese diplomat said on Monday.

Speaking at the British think tank Chatham House to an audience of a few hundred, China's ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said China will not accept the decision.

Liu said it cannot be accepted because the tribunal that made the ruling has no rights to decide on issues relating to sovereignty; the award did not follow the procedure of bilateral negotiation first; and the ruling did not exercise a procedure that is equitable and reasonable.

"In international law, the principle says illegal acts cannot breed legal effect, the illegal ruling is nothing but a waste of paper. China will not accept any third party issued settlement that does not have China's prior consent, nor will we let others propose solutions on us," Liu said.

The arbitral tribunal, appointed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, ruled on July 12 that China has no "historic title" over the South China Sea.

Liu stated three key reasons for China not accepting the ruling.

First, because the ruling concerns sovereignty issues, and issues of territorial sovereignty are beyond the scope of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), therefore the tribunal's ruling is beyond its jurisdiction.

"So from the very beginning, the tribunal expanded and abused its power recklessly to the areas outside its jurisdiction," Liu said.

Secondly, because bilateral channels of negotiation comes before arbitration in the dispute settlement mechanism of the Convention, and China and the Philippines have not yet had bilateral negotiations, it is against the standard procedure for the tribunal to intervene, Liu said.

Thirdly, the ruling is not carried out on an equitable and reasonable basis, and is politically motivated, Liu said. "The tribunal accepted every illegal claim made by the Philippines, while all of China's reasonable concerns were rejected."

Liu reiterated the Chinese government's commitment to resolving disputes through direct negotiations, and said this commitment is not changed by the tribunal's decision.

"China has always been committed to settle disputes through peaceful consultations with countries directly concerned, based on respect, historical facts and international law," Liu said.

He added that China stays open to negotiations with the Philippines on dispute resolution, and improvement of bilateral relations.

"The arbitration…has caused damage to China Philippines relations, but the Philippines is one of China's closest neighbors, we therefore hope the new Philippines government will consider …the common interest of both countries, " he said.

Furthermore, Liu said the ruling will not affect China's commitment to peaceful development. "China has long been working to build, uphold and continue international law and order.

"Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, we have signed boundary treaties with 12 of our 14 land neighbors through consultations and negotiations. We have completed maritime delimitation with Vietnam also through consultation and negotiations. This powerful example demonstrates that China abides by international law, upholds international order and works for regional peace and stability," Liu said.

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