Let nations resolve this territorial dispute in their own way

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 9:24pm

China’s rejection of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling against its nine-dash delineation of its territorial claims in the South China Sea (in the case brought by the Philippines) has caused the Western press to brand China as a rogue and pariah nation.

“Rogue” and “pariah” are obnoxious labels which should be reserved for the world’s most egregiously diabolical countries, perhaps those which are engaged in mass terrorism or which deploy weapons of mass destruction against their own people.

In castigating China, the Western press failed to mention that the tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to rule on sovereignty issues, nor that four of the five judges were appointed by the then-president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Shunji Yanai, a close ally of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both men want to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow Japan to deploy its military overseas and to intervene in disputes such as the South China Sea.

Given that the judges were appointed by Mr Yanai, it was a foregone conclusion that the tribunal would rule in favour of the Philippines.

The tribunal’s decree that China’s historic claims were extinguished when it ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1996 is tantamount to a country surrendering its sovereignty for a treaty that is supposed to respect borders whilst establishing rules for 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones in the oceans.

It has not been widely recognised that China has always pursued the path of negotiations and is still trying to encourage the Philippines to return to the negotiating table. So far, all parties have assiduously avoided any armed conflict, with the only incidents consisting of water-spraying or bumping each other’s boats.

The only violence that has occurred was in Vietnam where several Chinese factories were burnt to the ground in retaliation for China deploying an oil rig in the Paracel Islands.

The Western powers should not create another crisis situation on the pretext of preserving the freedom of the high seas by encouraging the smaller countries to confront China.

It will be advisable to allow the nations in the South China Sea to solve their issues at their own pace and in their own way.

The Western press should also refrain from using inflammatory language in a powder-keg situation.

Li Kwong Cheah, Calgary, Alberta, Canada