The verdict on the case brought by the Philippines against China’s unfounded territorial claims in the East Sea (South China Sea) took centre stage at the sixth CSIS East Sea conference in Washington D.C., the US, on July 12.
The annual conference, held by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), came hours after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based in The Hague (the Netherlands), ruled on the case filed by the Philippines.
The tribunal stated that China’s claims to historic rights over waters within the so-called nine-dash line are contrary to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The country also has no historic title over waters of the South China Sea, and has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the nine-dash line, the PCA said.
In his remarks at the conference , Senator Dan Sullivan , who sits on the US Senate Armed Services Committee, said the ruling “ presents opportunities and challenges for all countries involved.”
He called on China to act as a “responsible stakeholder” and respect the tribunal’s ruling, adding that the US should “ continue to maintain a favorable military balance in the Asia-Pacific region” to secure its enduring national interests.
Gregory Poling, Director of the CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, described the verdict as an encouragement to efforts to resolve maritime disputes by peaceful measures and through international arbitration.
Meanwhile, Daniel Kritenbrink – Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the US’s National Security Council – said: “ We have an enduring interest in seeing territorial and maritime disputes in the Asia Pacific region, including in the South China Sea, resolved peacefully, without coercion and in a manner that is consistent with international law.”
At the conference, almost all participants applauded the PCA’s ruling while some Chinese experts warned that the verdict might escalate tensions in the East Sea.
Many participants considered the ruling a turning point in the settlement of East Sea disputes, adding that recent militarisation has been altering the status quo and damaged the environment in the waters.
Nguyen Vu Tung, Acting Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, said the East Sea situation in 2016 is still worrying, asking relevant parties to take the PCA’s ruling as a base to make East Sea policies.