Pressure Mounts Against Arbitration Award – By Fredrick P. W. Gaye in Beijing, China

atributionThe July 12 arbitration awarded to the Philippines in the South China Sea disputes has been receiving barrages of backlashes; hence, pressure is mounting to have it trashed.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) maintains its position that it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration in The Hague, and would not participate in the case “unilaterally” filed by The Philippines in 2013, and so it considers the arbitration illegal.

Many countries and organizations as well as experts, including those of Africa, have joined China in trashing the arbitration award, urging peaceful negotiation of the boundary sovereignty disputes through diplomatic means.

Some of the countries are: Russian, Pakistan, Indian, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Egypt, Kazakhstan,Poland, Czech Republic,Bulgaria,Slovenia, Belarus, Uruguay, Kuwait, Qatar, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, Jordan,Bahrain,Uzbekistan,Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea,Yemen, Oman,Brunei, Algeria, Sudan,Djibouti, Libya, Mauritania,Somalia,Comoros, The Gambia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraqi, Togo, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Burundi,El Salvador, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Cameroon, Ethiopia,Lesotho, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, Eritrea,Sierra Leone, Gabon, Madagascar,Guinea Bissau, Zimbabwe, Angola, Liberia, Senegal, Tunisia,and Morocco. It is also reported that the China-African Cooperation and early all African countries have endorsed peaceful negotiation instead of arbitration.

PRC says the arbitration is an infringement on its sovereignty and violation of international laws, basing its arguments on the UNCLOS. UNCLOS is United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty.

Article 281 of UNCLOS provides: “If the States Parties which are parties to a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention have agreed to seek settlement of the dispute by a peaceful means of their own choice, the procedures provided for in this Part apply only where no settlement has been reached by recourse to such means and the agreement between the parties does not exclude any further procedure”. Given that China and the Philippines had made an unequivocal choice to settle through negotiation the relevant disputes, the compulsory third-party dispute settlement procedures under UNCLOS do not apply.

“The arbitration will intensify conflicting and confrontation, and so it will not be implemented. We are doing this to defend international justice and the true spirit of international laws,” Mr. Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the United States told an international gathering.

In additional to Chinese government’s vehement rejection of the arbitration ruling, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang held a press briefing in Beijing to respond to concerns from the public.

“As I told the Reuters reporter, we will not have any legal connection with it since we do not recognize this illegal organ from the very beginning,” Lu said in response to a question if will China make a response when the ruling of the arbitration is officially issued.

The Spokesperson of the US State Department issued a press statement saying that the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal is legally binding on both China and the Philippines, and the two countries should comply with their obligations and take this opportunity to renew efforts to peacefully address the dispute.

But Lu said China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to this statement, and has lodged solemn representations with the US side.

According to him, the Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expounding on the solemn position of the Chinese government on the South China Sea arbitration case unilaterally initiated by the Philippine side and the so-called ruling.  He added: “I want to stress again that the arbitration unilaterally filed by the Aquino III government, which violated international law, is a political farce under the cloak of law. What the arbitral tribunal did and ruled severely deviated from the common practice of international arbitration. The ruling is null and void with no binding force. It will in no way affect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.”

 Lu reiterated that China opposes and refuses to accept any proposal or action based on the ruling; and it will continue to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, and endeavor to peacefully resolve relevant disputes in the South China Sea with parties directly concerned through negotiation and consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law.

“We urge the US to think over its words and deeds, stop advertising the illegal arbitration and meddling with the South China Sea issue, and cease undermining China’s sovereignty and security interests and escalating regional tensions,” he warned.

China maintains that its sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao had never been challenged before the 20th century. When France and Japan ‘invaded and illegally occupied by force’ some islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Qundao in the 1930s and 1940s, the Chinese people rose to fight back strenuously and the Chinese government took a series of measures to defend China’s sovereignty over Nansha Qundao.

Support for China’s position ahead of the ruling was defined as an explicit public statement that 1) the arbitral tribunal lacked jurisdiction or legitimacy; 2) the right of states to choose their own method of dispute resolution should be respected (and therefore compulsory dispute mechanisms such as the tribunal are invalid); or 3) the right of states to exempt certain types of disputes from compulsory settlement as provided for by article 298 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea should be respected (which China claims invalidates the arbitrary proceedings because they actually touched upon boundary delimitation, from which it has exempted itself).

The crusade for trashing the arbitration continues as African countries express support China’s stance in settling the disputes peacefully instead of through arbitration. They believe that China holds a just and transparent position on the issue of South China Sea, which has the support of the majority. Chinese government, they say, has pointed out clearly that the Philippine’s unilateral filing of arbitration is against the rules of UNCLOS, and breaks the consensus reached between China and the Philippines in the past.

According to them, China will continue the principle of solving related disputes with the Philippines on the issue of South China Sea through negotiations.

Meanwhile, many international legal and political experts have branded the arbitration as politically-motivated since the disputes center on sovereignty rights.

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About Cholo Brooks 15592 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.