For China, the historic July 12, 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that rejected its excessive claims in the South China Sea is nothing but a piece of “waste paper.”
“The award of the arbitration is illegal, null and void. It is nothing more than a piece of waste paper,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing in Beijing Monday.
Zhao argued that China’s sovereignty and rights and interests over the vast waters of the South China Sea are not at all affected by the United Nations-backed court ruling and rejects “any claim or act based on it”.
He said Beijing has abundant “historical and legal basis” upheld by the Chinese government even as he labeled as “extremely irresponsible” the statement made by US State Secretary Antony Blinken that China’s expansive maritime rights in the South China Sea have no basis in international law.
“The US statement disregards the historical merits and objective facts of the South China Sea issue, violates and distorts international law, and breaks the US government’s long-held public commitment of not taking a position on the South China Sea sovereignty issue,” Zhao said.
In his statement on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Arbitral Award, Blinken reiterated the “unanimous and enduring decision” that China has no lawful claim to the area determined by the Arbitral Tribunal to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with the decision,” Blinken said in reference to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of which both Manila and Beijing are signatories.
Zhao, however, described Blinken’s statement as “extremely irresponsible” that deliberately stokes disputes and sows discord among regional countries and undermines regional peace and stability.
“Anyone with a discerning eye can easily see that the arbitration is a political farce which is initiated and manipulated by the US to smear and suppress China. The political agenda of the US to hype up the South China Sea issue by taking advantage of the 5th anniversary of the illegal award can’t be more obvious,” the Chinese foreign ministry official said.
In January 2013, the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China’s expansive maritime claims before the arbitration court in The Hague. On July 12, 2016, the tribunal handed down a decision that is binding on the parties to the ruling that invalidated China’s excessive nine-dash line claim.