China Finds Ally in Taiwan’s Leader in Rejecting Sea Ruling

by Debra Mao and  Adela Lin / 13 July 2016 / bloomberg.com

China and Taiwan are finding common ground after an international court dismissed their shared claims to more than 80 percent of the South China Sea.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen sent a naval frigate to patrol the disputed waterway Wednesday, to show the government’s “determination” to defend its national interest. The order came hours after the Permanent Court of Arbitration found China’s — and therefore Taiwan’s — claims to much of the area have no legal basis. 

Specifically, the court found the largest natural feature in the contested Spratly Islands, the Taiwanese-held Itu Aba, was a “rock” rather than an island and didn’t qualify for a 200-nautical mile (370 kilometer) exclusive economic zone. The frigate’s planned patrol included a resupply stop at the feature, which Taiwan calls Taiping, a defense ministry spokesman said.

The decision to deploy the warship could further escalate tensions in the area after the arbitration tribunal ruling. China has said it doesn’t recognize the court’s jurisdiction and warned Wednesday it may yet seek to set up an air defense identification zone over disputed waters.

The ruling, resulting from a challenge brought by the Philippines, invalidated China’s “nine-dash line” claim. China’s assertions cross over with those from countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, and are based on a map created by Taiwan’s Republic of China government in 1947. Taiwan has administered Itu Aba since the 1950s.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Wednesday praised Taiwan’s efforts to defend rights shared by the one-time civil war foes. “The arbitration has damaged the rights of all Chinese, and it’s the common interest and responsibility of both sides to protect the maritime rights of the South China Sea,” Liu said at a briefing in Beijing. He accused the tribunal judges in the case of bias and a lack of common sense.

 While China refused to participate in the tribunal proceedings, it did submit a paper outlining its position and worked behind the scenes to lobby the court, according to the decision. Taiwan, under former President Ma Ying-jeou, filed a brief to the panel stating a case for an exclusive economic zone around Itu Aba, citing its ability to support life. Read more…
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