The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled on late Thursday (October 29, 2015) that it had jurisdiction over a case filed by the Philippines, which contests China’s claims to nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.
In response to the aforementioned PCA’s decision, on October 30, 2015, China released the Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China on the Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility of the South China Sea Arbitration by the Arbitral Tribunal Established at the Request of the Republic of the Philippines (hereafter the Statement). Accordingly, China will disregard any findings by the PCA on the case brought by the Philippines, saying it is “null and void, and has no binding effect on China.”
While Beijing is entitled to its own view, it is clear that its statement lacks much basis in international law.
China’s non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration
According to the Statement, China declared that the PCA’s ruling is “null and void” and has “no binding effect” that “elaborated on the legal grounds for China’s non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration.” In other words, China is continuing to claim that it is not bound by the PCA for lack of jurisdiction, although the PCA has now found it has jurisdiction over the case.
In doing so, China is clearly ignoring the provision of Article 288(4) UNCLOS which reads: “In the event of a dispute as to whether a court or tribunal has jurisdiction, the matter shall be settled by decision of that court or tribunal.”