China’s Xi Jinping rejects any action based on international court’s South China Sea ruling
Permanent Court of Arbitration’s verdict will not affect Beijing’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in the fiercely contested waters, Chinese president says
China will not accept any proposition or action based on an international tribunal’s ruling over the disputed South China Sea, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday.
In a Xinhua report released after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against Beijing’s claims over the much-contested region, Xi said China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in the waters would not, under any circumstances, be affected by the verdict.
He made the remarks on Tuesday during a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Beijing.
“We firmly insist on maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, and on directly negotiating for a peaceful resolution on relevant disputes with states that are directly involved, based on the respect of history and in accordance with international laws,” Xi said, according to the report.
In the case brought to the court by Philippines, the international tribunal ruled on Tuesday evening that Beijing had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the South China Sea.
Xi’s remarks came after Tusk warned China to respect the international system.
Speaking to Premier Li Keqiang at the start of the EU-China summit, Tusk called on China to protect the “rule-based international order”, saying the task “may be the biggest challenge ahead of us”.
Tusk had made the comment after Li said that the meeting was “an active signal that clearly states that we are two important powers safeguarding world peace and development”.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States hoped that both China and the Philippines would comply with their obligation.
“We urge all claimants to avoid provocative statements or actions. This decision can and should serve as a new opportunity to renew efforts to address maritime disputes peacefully,” Kirby said.
“We support efforts to resolve territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea peacefully, including through arbitration.”
The Permanent Court of Arbitration also ruled that the only feature in the South China Sea controlled by Taipei was a rock rather than an island.
The ruling effectively rejected Taipei’s claim over a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone on Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba.
Only islands, not rocks or reefs, are entitled to such exclusive economic zones, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Taiwanese presidential office refused to accept Tuesday’s ruling, saying that the arbitration was not legally binding, reported the Central News Agency, the island’s official news wire.
Experts had earlier said that the feature was the most likely to be ruled an island among other features in the South China Sea. An island must be able to sustain human habitation or economic life, according to UNCLOS’ definition.
In March, the Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law, of which former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou is a member, submitted written evidence to the tribunal to convince its five judges that Taiping was entitled to be classified as an island and enjoy the rights of an exclusive economic zone.
The evidence included scientific reports ranging from the source of its fresh-water supply, the soil’s suitability for agricultural produce, to Taiping’s over-4,000-year existence.
In the international tribunal’s finding that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the South China Sea, the court said Beijing did so by interfering with the Philippines’ fishing and petroleum exploration, building artificial islands in the waters and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.
The tribunal also held that fishermen from the Philippines had traditional fishing rights in Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, and that China had interfered with these rights by restricting their access to the area.
The court held that Chinese law enforcement vessels unlawfully created a serious risk of collision when they physically obstructed Philippine vessels in the region.
China had caused severe harm to the coral reef environment in the South China Sea, the court ruled.
It said Beijing had violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species.
The Chinese authorities were aware that Chinese fishermen had harvested endangered sea turtles, coral and giant clams on a “substantial scale” in the South China Sea “using methods that inflict severe damage on the coral reef environment”, it said.
The tribunal’s much-anticipated verdict, released on Tuesday, ruled against China’s expansive claims and its historical nine-dash line in the disputed South China Sea.
“There is no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line,” the court said.
“China has violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights with respect to its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”
In response to the ruling, Beijing said it neither accepted nor recognised the ruling.
“The award is null and void and has no binding force,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea should under no circumstances be affected by such rulings, the statement said.
China opposed and would never accept any claim or action based on them, it added.
Xinhua issued a brief report reiterating Beijing’s stance of rejecting the tribunal’s authority over the case that the Philippines brought against China.
“The tribunal handling the South China Sea arbitration case unilaterally initiated by the former Philippine government issued its final award on Tuesday, amid a global chorus that as the panel has no jurisdiction, its decision is naturally null and void,” Xinhua said.
Hours before the ruling was announced, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang had said the verdict was “invalid and non-binding”.
“If we have to talk about the impact, it would be that it could escalate tensions of relevant countries in the region, and will seriously undermine the foundation of political consensus built among countries in the region,” Lu said.
He said China would continue to abide by the international law and resolve the disputes through direct talks between the countries involved.
It would also continue to safeguard the freedom of navigation and flight, and continue to push for the creating a code of conduct in the South China Sea, he said.
Beijing has refused to participate in the case and has denounced it as a plot against China led by the United States.
Besides the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims with China in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest trade routes.
The announcement of the ruling came as China and its main rival claimants went on high alert amid heightened tensions over the maritime disputes.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
The full text of Beijing’s statement on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea
Following is the full text of a statement of the Chinese government on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea issued on Tuesday.
Statement of the Government of the People’ s Republic of China on China’ s Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights and Interests in the South China Sea
To reaffirm China’ s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, enhance cooperation in the South China Sea with other countries,and uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, the Government of the People’ s Republic of China hereby states as follows:
I. China’ s Nanhai Zhudao (the South China Sea Islands) consist of Dongsha Qundao (the Dongsha Islands), Xisha Qundao (the Xisha Islands), Zhongsha Qundao (the Zhongsha Islands) and Nansha Qundao (the Nansha Islands). The activities of the Chinese people in the South China Sea date back to over 2,000 years ago. China is the first to have discovered, named, and explored and exploited Nanhai Zhudao and relevant waters, and the first to have exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over them continuously, peacefully and effectively, thus establishing territorial sovereignty and relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea.
Following the end of the Second World War, China recovered and resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao which had been illegally occupied by Japan during its war of aggression against China. To strengthen the administration over Nanhai Zhudao, the Chinese government in 1947 reviewed and updated the geographical names of Nanhai Zhudao, compiled Nan Hai Zhu Dao Di Li Zhi Lue (A Brief Account of the Geography of the South China Sea Islands), and drew Nan Hai Zhu Dao Wei Zhi Tu (Location Map of the South China Sea Islands) on which the dotted line is marked. This map was officially published and made known to the world by the Chinese government in February 1948.
II. Since its founding on 1 October 1949, the People’ s Republic of China has been firm in upholding China’ s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. A series of legal instruments, such as the 1958 Declaration of the Government of the People’ s Republic of China on China’ s Territorial Sea, the 1992 Law of the People’ s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, the 1998 Law of the People’ s Republic of China on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf and the 1996 Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’ s Congress of the People’ s Republic of China on the Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, have further reaffirmed China’ s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.
III. Based on the practice of the Chinese People and the Chinese government in the long course of history and the position consistently upheld by successive Chinese governments, and in accordance with national law and international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China has territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, including, inter alia:
i. China has sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao, consisting of Dongsha Qundao, Xisha Qundao, Zhongsha Qundao and Nansha Qundao;
ii. China has internal waters, territorial sea and contiguous zone, based on Nanhai Zhudao;
iii. China has exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, based on Nanhai Zhudao;
iv. China has historic rights in the South China Sea.
The above positions are consistent with relevant international law and practice.
IV. China is always firmly opposed to the invasion and illegal occupation by certain states of some islands and reefs of China’ s Nansha Qundao, and activities infringing upon China’ s rights and interests in relevant maritime areas under China’ s jurisdiction. China stands ready to continue to resolve the relevant disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultation with the states directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law. Pending final settlement, China is also ready to make every effort with the states directly concerned to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature, including joint development in relevant maritime areas, in order to achieve win-win results and jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.
V. China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all states under international law in the South China Sea, and stays ready to work with other coastal states and the international community to ensure the safety of and the unimpeded access to the international shipping lanes in the South China Sea.