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Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Arbitration ruling will harm world order

By WANG XIAOPENG (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-02 09:46

China is defending not only its territorial sovereignty but also world peace and stability in its fight against the arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines on the South China Sea issue.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which accepted Manila's unilateral case against Beijing, said on Wednesday that it would issue a ruling on July 12.

Since January 22, 2013, when Manila initiated the arbitration, Beijing has been reiterating that it will neither participate in the arbitration nor accept its ruling. So by acting with disdain for China's concerns, the arbitration court risks opening a Pandora's box in the South China Sea, which could have dangerous consequences.

From the very beginning, the arbitral tribunal, set up on the basis of the Philippines' illegal actions and claims, has had no jurisdiction over the issue.

The tribunal disrespects the fact that Beijing and Manila have agreed to settle their dispute in the South China Sea through bilateral negotiation and that the arbitration proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea do not apply to the maritime dispute between the two sides.

Since the Philippines' request is essentially about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, the arbitral tribunal has also turned a blind eye to the declaration made by China in 2006 on optional exceptions in accordance with UNCLOS, which excludes, among others, disputes over maritime delimitation from arbitration and other compulsory dispute settlement procedures. Some 30 countries have made similar declarations.

Therefore, the tribunal has violated UNCLOS, too, and expanded its jurisdiction and abused its power by hearing Manila's case. No matter what the court ruling is, it will be illegal.

By unwisely proceeding with the Philippines' case, which breaches international law, the tribunal has not only helped escalate tensions between Beijing and Manila, but also undermined regional stability and the international maritime order.

China's stance of neither participating in nor accepting the results of the arbitration does not mean it cares a hoot about international law, instead it shows China's commitment to upholding its rights vested in it by the world order.

The role international conventions play in safeguarding the world order can never be underestimated. Since the end of World War II, they have contributed to the relatively stable international relations despite the changes in the global balance of power, and helped the international community formulate hundreds of treaties to regulate countries' behaviors. In fact, without these conventions, the current world order would be threatened.

But when such conventions are misused by non-relevant countries, as has happened in Manila's arbitration case, they have to be countered. The United States, a country from outside the region, has been trumpeting the importance of the rule of law in international relations even though it has not signed the UNCLOS. And by supporting the Philippines and the tribunal, the US has only exposed its hypocrisy.

For the US, violations of international conventions can be called acts of strategy, because it has been militarizing the South China Sea with the increasing presence of its defense forces in the name of opposing the "militarization" of the waters and the region.

With regard to territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any third-party intervention or any imposed solution. Beijing will continue to be a responsible player and contributor within the established international order, upholding international law and basic norms governing international relations as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. It will also continue to negotiate and work with states directly to resolve bilateral disputes in the South China Sea.

As such, the Philippines and countries supporting it have to swallow the "award" (as the ruling is being called) of the arbitration tribunal.

The author is a writer with Xinhua News Agency.

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