Opinion: U.N. Ruling is Turning Point for Overlapping South China Sea Claims

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The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration handed out a decision on Thursday that the Republic of the Philippines’ case against the People’s Republic of China regarding Law of the Seas violations can be heard. This long-awaited decision marks a turning point in the complex landscape of international legality as more maritime nations seek to establish boundaries on their oceanic and littoral territories.

The court now moves to hear the merits of the case, with a decision expected sometime in 2016. A decision favorable to the Philippines could set the stage for that country’s legal standing on existing claims in the contested Spratly Islands, and further isolate China as the emerging maritime power seeks to consolidate its hold upon valuable resources in the South China Sea.

The Philippines filed their case in 2013, following several years of persistent and repeated Chinese intrusions and violations into what is considered territorial waters. Aside from water-hosing fishermen, taking a fishing shoal by force and harassing a military outpost, China also comprehensively expanded the Spratly Islands and features already under their control. The latest being the creation of a 10,000 foot long runway at Fiery Cross Reef that grants China the ability to control the airspace over the disputed territory. As the weakest military in the region, the Philippines could only resort to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, accusing China of multiple violations of UNCLOS provisions.

Read more: http://news.usni.org/2015/11/02/15492

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