AMSTERDAM, Oct 29 (Reuters) – An arbitration court in the Netherlands ruled on Thursday that it has jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines has filed against China over disputed areas in the South China Sea.
In a legal defeat for China, the Hague-based tribunal rejected Beijing’s claim that the disputes were about its territorial sovereignty and said additional hearings would be held to decide the merits of the Philippines’ arguments.
China has boycotted the proceedings and rejects the court’s authority in the case. Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, dismissing claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
The tribunal found it has authority to hear seven of Manila’s submissions under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and China’s decision not to participate did “not deprive the tribunal of jurisdiction”.
The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines that this week challenged Beijing’s pursuit of territorial claims by sailing close to artificial islands China has constructed in the South China Sea, welcomed the decision, according to a senior U.S. defense official.
“This demonstrates the relevance of international law to the territorial conflicts in the South China Sea,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.