South China Sea Verdict: US Reactions
Washington endorsed the ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the case of the Republic of Philippines v. People’s Republic of China, noting that the court’s verdict is an important milestone toward peacefully solving territorial disputes in the South China Sea. However, reactions by the U.S. State Department were subdued and there was little sense of triumphalism among diplomats.
“The decision today by the Tribunal in the Philippines-China arbitration is an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea,” a U.S. State Department press release published this morning notes. “We are still studying the decision and have no comment on the merits of the case, but some important principles have been clear from the beginning of this case and are worth restating.”
The PCA ruled that both China’s nine-dash line and claim to historic rights in the South China Sea are invalid, as my colleague Ankit Panda reported earlier today:
The Tribunal’s award is highly favorable to the Philippines, ruling that China’s nine-dash line claim and accompanying claims to historic rights have no validity under international law; that no feature in the Spratly Islands, including Taiwan-occupied Itu Aba (or Taiping Island), is an island under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); and that the behavior of Chinese ships physically obstructing Philippine vessels is unlawful.
Although the United States has never acceded to UNCLOS, it accepts the UN convention as customary international law. The State Department points out that the court’s decision is legally binding on both China and the Philippines. (Interestingly, the United States denied the PCA’s jurisdiction in a case involving the United States in the 1980s.) Read more…