News / Asia

China Likely to Ignore Philippines' Challenge in South China Sea

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario has asked an international tribunal to intervene in its long-standing South China Sea territorial dispute with China, January 22, 2013.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario has asked an international tribunal to intervene in its long-standing South China Sea territorial dispute with China, January 22, 2013.
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Analysts say China will likely ignore the Philippines' decision to take a long-running territorial feud to an international tribunal, continuing its insistence on solving maritime disputes without third party involvement.

Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said Tuesday his government will take the issue to an arbitral tribunal under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has been ratified by both countries.

The Philippines wants the panel to reject China's claims to nearly the entire South China Sea. It is also challenging what it says is China's "illegal" activity around reefs and rocks it says are part of Manila's exclusive economic zone under the U.N. convention.

Most observers say China will almost certainly not agree to participate in the panel, in keeping with its long-standing policy of solving territorial disputes through direct negotiations.

Carl Thayer of Australia's University of New South Wales tells VOA the tribunal may be able to move forward without Chinese participation. He says the Philippines hopes a favorable decision would give it a moral victory.

"It's [a case] that not only has the legal side, but also has a strong moral suasion. If the tribunal ruled even partly in the Philippines' favor, it would deflate China's claims and give more legality and international cover to the Philippines."

But Thayer says the court's decision, though technically "binding," could easily be ignored by China, since there is no mechanism included to enforce any possible ruling.

Sam Bateman, a maritime security expert, acknowledges China's refusal to participate in the tribunal "probably won't be a great public relations success." But he tells VOA that may be exactly what the Philippines government is aiming for.

"I see it in many ways as a bold gesture by the Philippines, hoping that China will respond negatively," says Bateman, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, who described the move as Manila's "attempt to take the high ground."

"If China were to choose to opt out [of the tribunal], of course this would lead to another round of perhaps international condemnation, you know another example of China's assertiveness and lack of preparedness to operate, and those sort of things."

But Bateman says all countries, including China, have the right under UNCLOS to opt out of arbitration that involves binding decisions on issues related to maritime boundaries and sovereignty disputes.

That appears to be the route chosen by Beijing. On Tuesday, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines reasserted China's "indisputable sovereignty" over waters in the South China Sea, saying China supports a negotiated settlement "through peaceful means."

In any case, most analysts agree that the competing claims of China and the Philippines are unlikely to be resolved soon, and that the case will take three to four years to work through the international tribunal.

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by: Dawn Dare from: Singapore
January 25, 2013 2:42 AM
China is cherrypicking agreements as it suits them. It invokes the ASEAN code of conduct on the pretense that both China and Philippines are signatories, but refuses to honor UNCLOS where both are signatories too. In the court of world opinion, it seems China is losing this war big time.


by: Jose Rizal from: London
January 24, 2013 11:31 PM
China should know that outside their boundaries, communist law doesnt apply. China should follow the recent LAW and ETHICS of UN. These Law was made after WW2 to make sure NAZI ERA will not be repeated again. Grabbing or occupying land that's not yours is INVASION. US, UK, Russia and other super power countries should TOLERATE it at all. You may have miltary powers (man-made) but we have the mightiest GOD to protect our country-PHILIPPINES.


by: Andy from: Canada
January 24, 2013 3:29 PM
From Wikipedia: Ancient Chinese maps record the "Thousand Li Stretch of Sands"; Qianli Changsha (千里長沙) and the "Ten-Thousand Li of Stone Pools"; Wanli Shitang (萬里石塘),[8] which China today claims refers to the Spratly Islands. The Wanli Shitang have been explored by the Chinese since the Yuan Dynasty and may have been considered by them to have been within their national boundaries. [9][10] They are also referenced in the 13th century,[11][source needs translation] followed by the Ming Dynasty.[12][source needs translation] When the Ming Dynasty collapsed, the Qing Dynasty continued to include the territory in maps compiled in 1724,[13][source needs translation] 1755,[14][source needs translation] 1767,[15][source needs translation] 1810,[16][source needs translation] and 1817.[17][source needs translation]

In Response

by: Wu from: USA
January 27, 2013 3:56 PM
Chinese have been known that a good strory teller. China claimed all the islands in the region but NEVER OCCUPY any of those islands. In 1974, 1979, 1988 and thereafter China use MILITARY FORCE to occupy the islands.
Beijing played dirty among themself, played dirty on it own people. Now they are playing dirty on its neighbor.

In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
January 25, 2013 6:46 AM
To Andy from Canada,
Then why does China want only to negotiate one on one with other claimant (bully their weaker neighbours) and not take their case to U.N. tribunal with other claimants? It is because China has no basis for their claim and they would lose. They use Chinese Propaganda to falsely make claim that entire east sea belong to them, up to shores of other countries and far away from China.


by: Lopa from: Manila
January 24, 2013 3:08 AM
It is fortunate that China had not been named Pacifc, if not, following to their line of thinking, the whole PACIFIC OCEAN is their territory..... :(


by: Tired from: Asia
January 24, 2013 12:52 AM
If Cairo and Potsdam declaration can be ignored than so can the international law, International tribunal, UN and its subsidiary. if US want a war US can continue from South Korea DMZ line. US no longer have the nuke advantage against China like in the past. Let have some peace.


by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 23, 2013 9:02 PM
Just look at the claim of US ally, democratic Taiwan's, which is exactly the same as China's claim including Diaoyu island and the whole South China sea, not even one inch difference.
US ally and democratic country must not lie, right? to the west media!
Vietnam is an evil communism country, so Vietnam has no right of the South China sea.
As Philippines, this country didnt exist until after WWII. And before 1980s, its constitution clearly mentioned its territory not include south China sea.
It is Philippines try to steal territory from China! It wants to go to the international court because that is not its territory and it has nothing to loss.
As a Chinese I wont allow my government to loss even one inch of my mother land! You want my land? then pay with blood and lives!

In Response

by: Peter from: USA
January 27, 2013 12:18 AM
There was no independent country called Philippine in the 1500's only a bunch of small kingdoms with no united claims. The territory Philippine was named and created by Spain which means whatever area there were claimed by Spain. Spain then let America to take over and there was still no indepedent country called Philippine. Only after WWII, an independent Philippine was created. It has no ancient claims because it was new. It cannot use claims of Spain or America to use as its claim because Spain's claim was giving to America and then America opted out of any claims there after WWII and in fact it didn't respond to Franch and Japanese occupation of the islands. Heck even Vietnam have better historical claim than the new country Philippine created after WII have since it existed and claimed those islands (against China) before it was occupied by France.

In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 25, 2013 8:21 AM
@ Chiang Kai Dong from: China. Allow me to mention that ROC was established on 1912, much earlier than Philippines and Vietnam! And ROC (Taiwan) published the famous 9 dotted sea map in 1947. Never heard any protest from those countries until oil and gas found in that area in 70's.

In Response

by: Jose Rizal from: London
January 24, 2013 11:39 PM
@Jonathan, Philippines has been there since 1500. Philippines was given by Spain. We became republic after WW2, and yours only came 3 years after...
Enough of this childish claim, let's see each other in international COURT.

In Response

by: Danidanado from: Philippines
January 24, 2013 7:02 PM
From Wikipedia:The 50 Cent Party are Internet commentators hired by the government of the People's Republic of China (both local and central) or the Communist Party to post comments favorable towards party policies in an attempt to shape and sway public opinion on various Internet message boards.[1][2] The commentators are said to be paid fifty cent of RMB for every post that either steers a discussion away from anti-party or sensitive content on domestic websites, bulletin board systems, and chatrooms,[3] or that advances the Communist party line.[4][5].
Should read: domestic and international sites. I see many Fifty Centers commenting on news sites here in the Philippine Islands. J. Huang sounds like one as he espouses untruths and staement that are ridiculous.

In Response

by: Chiang Kai Dong from: China
January 24, 2013 6:23 PM
Hey my fellow Chinese to correct your facts the Republic of the Philippines was first to become independent in 1946 almost 3 years earlier than the People’s Republic of China which got their independence in 1949.

The PRC is only claiming all the disputed territories on-behalf of the Republic of China which still exist till this date and relocated in Taiwan!

In layman’s term the PRC or the Communist China is the new kid on the block in these disputes and should refrain from taking an aggressive stance to those who were already administering all the disputed islands and reefs!

By the way, our Country has no rights to include in its claim virtually the entire Southeast Asian Sea!

In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
January 24, 2013 7:07 AM
You mean China is an evil communist country and has no right to East Sea claim. Vietnam is in the process of changing its constitution to be more democratic.
Taiwan is not recognized as a country and has no claim. It is China who always try to steal territories from its neighbours. This shows China is a barbaric country and has not changed its communist and expansionalistic ideology. The U.S. made a mistake in liberating China from Japan during world war 2 and giving Taiwan to the Chinese.

In Response

by: Scott from: Earth
January 24, 2013 4:33 AM
Jonathan Huang - Pick up a history book. The Philippines did exist as a country well before WWII. Also, Vietnam is a socialist country, China is still officially communist. If you can be wrong about those simple facts what else could you be wrong about?

In the past year I have stood in 4 countries which share a border with China, Tibet, and East Turkistan and all of those countries have recently lost land to China. You do not want China to lose an inch, but you are willing to let it conquer miles.

If the islands, rocks, and reefs of the Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal do belong to China, then I'm sure that ITLOS will find that. So why not join the Philippines in arbitration to finally resolve this dispute peacefully?

In Response

by: Lopa from: Manila
January 24, 2013 3:02 AM
My reply might be a self serving as your comment.

I am just sad to note, that in-spite of you living in Canada, your line of thinking is still ancient. Your country during the ancient time had been trading with the Philippines. and Philippines' strategic location is a major route of trading. It is for this reason, that most of your countrymen embraced the Philippine Culture and start living with the Filipinos. You better think twice or more before citing world history for it will only reveal your empty brain.

In Response

by: David from: Philippines
January 24, 2013 12:48 AM
Philippines is a country even before WW1 because it gained its independence since June 12, 1898 (which is not fully independent). You're right, Philippines tries to steal the territory from China because Pres. Marcos sells it. China look around in the Philippines and wanted our shores, but this is not the case right??

In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
January 24, 2013 12:32 AM
Hey Jonathan Huang, Would any pirate buccaneer like their loots to be decided by any international court? Chinese dynasties were notorious for invading neibouring countries to expand their territory. And so is the Pirate State of China now. That is why China is a vast country today. You would sacrifice your blood and life to protect your land or sea??? I am afraid that those lands and seas do not belong to your Pirate State. So if you did so, you would be a stupid sacrifice to your rotten regime. You say It is the Philippines try to steal territory from China?? How nonsensical is your argument because the Philippines is much weaker, much smaller and is not as warlike as China. So is Vietnam. It is China who has carried fire in one hand and water in other for thousands of years.

In Response

by: Tyjonesd D
January 23, 2013 10:58 PM
Either you are brainwashed, or purely paid to state fallacy. You have by no means to prove your claims, just like your government does. So weird for China to claim our territories in 20th century. Are you guys running out of natural resources?


by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
January 23, 2013 4:45 PM
All these territorial conflicts have merit, the merit is in resolving the dispute by peaceful means; by the usage of a pannel of experts, to review the facts, and by having an adjudication process and an unpartial decision of the case. If the system used ends up, where one country bullies the other into backing down on their claim, it becomes the law of the jungle. If nations perceive that the they can't get a fair and just outcome, the law of the jungle situation, then an arms race will be set in place. The first step to the arms race, that one observes, is the rapid creation of military alliances, because many nations see or perceive, that a fair peaceful resolution to their claims is not possible. We are already seeing the prelude to the arms race; notwithstanding that China is way ahead, it has the largest forces, it will not take long for the rest to catch-up. Bottom line- the UN conflict resolution approach, would be the best, if all abide by it, to ensure we do not end up in a massive arms race; such an arms race is not good for anyone.


by: Walter Ziobro
January 23, 2013 4:16 PM
Reply to Gravur:

Maybe you are right. Maybe the claims by Philippines are not legitimate. Let's go to arbitration, and find out.

In Response

by: Danidanado from: Philippines
January 24, 2013 7:15 PM
Huang: first you say Taiwan is independent and democratic, now you say Taiwan and China are two votes united against the the Philippines. Which is it? Which one is the TRUTH? China must comply with International Law or be condemned by the World. Can China take on the whole World? China is a signatory country to UNCLOS and ITCLOS, so why does it not comply? Has China no Honor?

In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 23, 2013 9:05 PM
@Walter Ziobro, go to arbitration is ok but we must include Taiwan also! because Taiwan also claim the whole south China sea.
And lets have a democratic vote! I guess both China and Taiwan vote for Chinese and Filino only got one so Chinese win!


by: Andy from: Canada
January 23, 2013 4:02 PM
The spratly islands are Chinese territory, it not necessary belong to Phil just because they are close to Phillipins. And besides both Chinese mainland and Taiwan's (Republic of China) claim are exactly same as China's claims, why? Because they are belong to China, either PRC or ROC, they have nothing to do with Phillipins or Vietnam. How far is Frankland island to UK? how far is Hawaii from The US? how far is Guam from US?

In Response

by: Danidanado from: Philippines
January 24, 2013 7:56 PM
China is a country that is signatory to UNCLOS and ITClLOS. But it refuses to abide by the Treaty. The Chinese are expansionists on every border it has. They have no HONOR. Where the heck is Frankland? I guess you mean Falkland? The Brits have lived there for centuries. Guam? Americans have lived there since it won the Island from Japan in WWII. How long has China have settlements in the Spratlys? Only just recently and only one Island. Wikipedia has this on the Spratlys: In 1946, Vice President Elpidio Quirino reiterated that the Southern Islands, the forerunner name for Kalayaan, as part of the Philippines.

In 1947, Tomas Cloma, a Filipino adventurer and a fishing magnate, "discovered" a group of several uninhabited and unoccupied islands/islets in the vastness of the Luzon Sea.
China claims the Spratlys on historical evidence. What evidence? The Spratlys were first mapped by the Spaniards who claimed them along with The Philippine Islands. The US won them along with the Philippine Islands in the treaty following the Spanish-American War, around 1901. America gave Independence to the Philippines in 1946. Filipinos have had settlements and an airstrip and a weather station (PAGASA) since then. So, IMHO, History as well as International Law sides with the Philippines

In Response

by: Wu from: USA
January 23, 2013 9:19 PM
In 1971 Chinese has begun to claim all the inlets in South China Sea. Chinese claimed the islets but never occupied. Chinese used force to occupy the islets in 1974 and thereafter. Chinese played dirty. Chinese never play fair. Chinese has been harassed its neighbors to get unfair claims and they force its neighbors play Chinese rules that they changed the rules along the way so that they always win. Nobody respect Chinese even if they become the world most powerful. Wake up Chinese, it's 2013, be respectful to others so you can be repectful in return.


by: Meow Ming from: Taiwan
January 23, 2013 2:49 PM
China is a newcomer in the West Philippine Sea. China was never an independent country because it was colonized by various European colonial countries like Britain, France, Germany, and the chinese master Japan. However, since the chinese were so unruly that time because of narco-politics, warllordism, and gangsterism, the European colonial powers that time put their trusted chinese clique to govern China. These were the men and women who comprised the Qing dynasty and who happened to sold off its people to the Brits in exchange for opium. Until now, china has to be civilized. According to Jackie Chan, china is improving in trade, military, and international relations. I think that the whole world must see China in sustaining this direction of improving itself to be able to have its impoverished peasants put food on the table.

In Response

by: Danidanado from: Philippines
January 24, 2013 8:06 PM
Well said Ming. I would only add that Chinese fishermen used sailing boats called "Junks" which is a good description of the most unwieldy and unsafe boat I have ever sailed. I doubt very much any Chinese fishermen ever made it down that far South until recently. Chinese Historical claims just don't have any merit. Chinese lawful claims farther than 200 nautical miles South of Hainan (UNCLOS) EEZ, have no merit at all.

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