The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it does not “accept or recognize” an international ruling finding China in violation of international law for its territorial incursions in the South China Sea.
The Hague’s International Court of Arbitration unanimously found China in violation of international law for its territorial incursions in the South China Sea, siding instead with the Philippines, a U.S. ally. The ruling is the first international recognition of China’s continued expansion into the South China Sea on dubious territorial claims.
The case centered on a dispute over a reef which both China and the Philippines claimed their own. China disregarded the Philiipines’ claim and built an artificial island in the disputed area. China claims up to 90 percent of the South China Sea under its own definition, which was explicitly rejected by the international tribunal.
U.S. allies in the region, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia are concerned China will accelerate its efforts to build as many artificial islands as possible to make its position intractable.
The U.S. explicitly rejects China’s claims in the South China Sea and wants to limit China’s ability to potentially interdict trade routes in the important shipping channel.
“I expect a very tough reaction from China since it has lost on almost every point. There is virtually nothing that it has won,” Bonnie Glaser, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The New York Times.
The Council on Foreign Relations noted in 2015 that 5.3 trillion dollars of world goods moved through the South China Sea, with 1.2 trillion of that bound for U.S. shores. Any disruption in this shipping channel would throw world markets into chaos. China has shown a willingness to curtail freedom of navigation in favor of its territorial claims in the South China Sea, worrying the U.S. and its allies.
China routinely runs off any fisherman in the historic fishing grounds as it continues to build artificial islands. The international ruling found that China has caused “irreparable” damage to the fishing environment when building artificial landing strips and piers for its navy.
The U.S. exercised its right to freedom of navigation and sailed the USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, near an important artificial Chinese island in October 2015, protesting China’s actions in the South China Sea. China was so incensed it summoned the U.S. ambassador and told him the move was “extremely irresponsible.”
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