Verdict on South China Sea: Will tensions rise?

Permanent Court of Arbitration rules on a dispute over the South China Sea as the Philippines brought the case against China – (verdict here ). How important would you say this verdict could be for the region and irrespective of the verdict do you think that all sides will respect the verdict or we can expect some tensions? Read few comments.

Kerry BrownProfessor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute, King’s College, London

The verdict has now come and it is largely against China. This will create tensions because although China has said it will not recognise the arbitration of the court, this creates a precedent, and potentially clears the way for other claims. It is something that Philippines and others can now refer to to legitimize their claims, at least in the eyes of the international community, and that makes China’s position more difficult. The negative side however is that it will create even more defensiveness and opposition to the role of international law within China, where the court, the ruling of the court, and the process will be attacked and discredited as part of an international conspiracy to hedge in China.

Malcolm Cook, Senior Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

I think the verdict will be an important event in the decades-long tensions over territorial and maritime boundary disputes in the South China Sea even though the Arbitration tribunal will not rule on either questions of sovereignty or maritime boundaries. If the Tribunal chooses to rule on the Philippine argument that China’s historic rights claims to the nine-dash line are not supported by UNCLOS, this will be serious problem for China. As is expected, if the tribunal rules on what land features are islands, rocks or  low-tide features then the U.S. will be under pressure to conduct FONOPS near the features controlled by China that are determined to be simply low-tide features and hence have territorial sea.

China has already stated that it does not recognise the legality of the Tribunal even hearing the case, a positon the Kuomintang government in Taiwan also adopted. The Kuomintang lost power in January this year and it is less clear what the DPP government response will be.

If the ruling upholds many of the Philippine claims and is seen as a “loss”for China, Beijing will likely act to express its de facto control over the land features it claims in the South China Sea. This will increase tensions and criticism of China.

Bill Hayton, Author of the Book: The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia

The ruling could be very significant if it goes in favour of the Philippines and if the rest of the international community decides to hold China to the principle of abiding by international law. Of course if the Philippines loses on the 15 points that it has raised then it won’t be very significant!

To abide by the ruling China has to do literally nothing. So long as it doesn’t send its fishermen or oil companies to go fishing or drilling in the wrong places then that will satisfy everyone.

I expect that we will hear some angry rhetoric coming from Beijing this week but we should probably ignore that. What’s important is what China does and the rest of the region is hoping it will just do nothing.

Instead I think we’ll have more tensions and confrontations but no serious changes in the status quo in the short term. The danger may come after the US elections in November.

David Goodman, Professor and Head of Department China Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou

Obviously an important question for the region. My understanding is that the PRC has already questioned the process in ways in which makes it possible for them to accept all or part of what is decided less.

Either way I suspect tensions will remain as the ruling is unlikely in the way of these things to be clear cut.
So respecting the ruling will be less important than interpreting the ruling.

 

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