Maritime Dispute Exposes Rifts in China’s Foreign Ministry

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A debate in China’s foreign ministry on how to respond — or whether to respond — to a court case over the disputed South China Sea highlights how tensions over policy are complicating President Xi Jinping’s efforts to project the country as a responsible power.
China is boycotting arbitration hearings brought by the Philippines in The Hague that are heading to a conclusion next year, saying it doesn’t recognize the court’s jurisdiction. That fits its approach of dealing with disputes on a state-to-state basis, rather than through courts or international groupings, but its absence means there is no counter-argument to the Philippines’ case.
While there was an internal discussion about whether to have a presence when the hearings started last month, international law experts were unable to assure policy makers of absolute success in defending China’s territorial claims, according to two people familiar with the matter.
China muddied the waters in December 2014, when it filed a position paper arguing the Philippine submission was about a sovereignty dispute and therefore outside the court’s jurisdiction, adding China has “indisputable sovereignty” as the “first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources” of the area. The Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected the argument and deemed the paper “as effectively constituting a plea.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-17/toxic-football-south-china-sea-case-spurs-china-ministry-debate

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