Are China’s claims and actions in the South China Sea violations of international law? As early as by the end of this month, a court of arbitration in The Hague is expected to hand down the first ruling on the issue in a case initiated by the Philippines based on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The struggle between China and the international community over the “rule of law” is about to get into full swing.
In April 2012, a Philippine warship cracking down on Chinese fishing vessels got in a standoff with a Chinese government ship sent to block it near Scarborough Shoal west of Luzon Island in the Philippines. After about two months, bad weather forced the Philippine vessel to leave the area. With this, effective control of the shoal switched from the Philippines to China.
Unable to stand up to the assertive maritime advances made by China, which is backed by dominant military and economic might, the Philippines took its case to The Hague in January 2013.
According to regulations stipulated in the convention, and the Chinese government’s declaration based on those regulations that it would not accept any related procedures, the disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime boundary demarcation are outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Consequently, Manila focused the content of its case on the illegality of China’s claims and actions.