The Hague court orders China to answer ‘nine-dash line’ claim in dispute with Philippines

Beijing given until December 15 to defend its claims in the South China Sea that overlap with Philippines and its neighbours

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 2:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2016, 2:02pm

China has been asked by an international tribunal to defend its territorial claims in the South China Sea by submitting written arguments within six months – despite Beijing’s refusal to meet the legal challenge by the Philippines.

China has refused to join the arbitration process initiated last year by the Philippine government before the The Hague tribunal.

Philippine officials today reiterated a call to China to join the arbitration as a peaceful and durable solution to resolve the long-raging territorial disputes.

The tribunal yesterday gave China until December 15 to submit arguments and evidence against the Philippine complaint, which questions the validity of China’s so-called vast “nine-dash line", which refers to a rough Chinese demarcation of its territorial claims that cover virtually the entire strategic waters.

In March, the Philippines filed another plea before a Hamburg, Germany-based UN tribunal, asking it to declare China’s claims as illegal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – of which Manila and Beijing are both signatories.

The Philippines contends that China’s claim over the strategic waters – believed to harbour vast oil and gas reserves – violate international law and overlap the territories of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

INFOGRAPHIC: Troubled waters - sources of conflict in the South China Sea

“It is about defending what is legitimately ours,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

“It is about securing our children’s future. It is about guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations,” he said at the time of the filing.

China has also refused to take part in the Hamburg arbitration, before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, and warned that bilateral relations would suffer if the Philippines pursued the appeal.

“The case could further heighten tensions and prompt China to move to shoals claimed by the Philippines,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila, at the time of the filing.

“Other claimants such as Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia are watching how this case will play out,” he said.

Manila has argued that China’s claims cover areas as far as 1,611 kilometres from the nearest Chinese coast and interfere with the Philippines’ exercising of its rights to its continental shelf.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse