Why the Philippines’ South China Sea legal case matters


HONG KONG – On July 12, a panel of five judges at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will announce their ruling in a case brought by the Philippines against China over its actions in the South China Sea.


– The Philippines’ case against China marks the first time any legal challenge has been bought in the South China Sea territorial dispute. Centered on the Spratlys archipelago which straddle vital international shipping lanes, tensions in the South China Sea have simmered for decades, intensifying in recent years. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim the Spratlys and/or surrounding waters. China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim all of the Paracel Islands in the north of the South China Sea.

– The dispute has intensified political and military rivalry across the region between the rising power of China and the long-dominant player, the United States. China has been projecting its growing naval reach while the US is deepening ties with both traditional security allies, such as Japan and the Philippines, and newer friends, including Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar.

– Chinese analysts say the South China Sea will only grow in importance to Beijing, particularly as its submarine base on Hainan Island will be crucial to China’s future nuclear deterrent.


– The Philippines formally lodged its arbitration case under the UN’s 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS, in January 2013.

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