China’s claims to South China Sea to be tested in ruling

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July 11, 2016 (LBO) – An international tribunal will rule on China’s territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, in an arbitration initiated by Philippines.

China has not participated in the arbitration and will likely reject the ruling closely watched for its ramifications for South East Asia.

“An award from the tribunal that rejects some of China’s more dubious claims would provide support for the mainstream views of other states in the region,” Cecily Rose, assistant law professor of Public International Law at Leiden University, told AFP.

“China is bound to comply with the award. But should it refuse to do so, the tribunal has no enforcement mechanism to which it can turn,” Rose said.

Sri Lanka on Friday welcomed Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Wang Yi, the first high level visit from China since the formation of the island’s National Unity Government.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in a statement that Sri Lanka deeply values the long standing friendship and cooperation with China.

China’s interest in sea routes can be at odds with those of regional superpower India, and Sri Lanka has taken on the task of playing a balancing act in this regard.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration, the world’s oldest international arbitration tribunal, will issue a written decision at 0900 GMT, under Annex VII to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

With frequent military brushes between China and its Asian neighbors the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, the ruling may ratchet up tensions in the region.

The waters are believed to hold untapped oil and gas reserves, and for China provides options for a sea-based nuclear deterrent.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that the “[a]bsence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings.”

Manila lodged the case against Beijing in 2013, saying after 17 years of negotiations it had exhausted all other political and diplomatic avenues. Angered by the move, Beijing refused to participate, adding it would not comply with the ruling by a tribunal with “no jurisdiction” over the issue.

Analysts say the court in The Hague is likely to find in Manila’s favor.

Washington on Friday “urged both parties to comply with the ruling and urge all claimants to avoid provocative actions or statements”.

Newly-elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not “taunt or flaunt” any favorable ruling.