South China Sea: The Hague ruling rejected by Beijing still casts a long shadow over the dispute

Although China prevailed in what began as a fishing dispute in 2012 near China’s Huangyan Island and the contested Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal in the Philippines, Manila pushed to take the matter to a Hague-based tribunal. Next year.

Despite strong opposition from Beijing, this was undoubtedly one of the most important moments in the internationalization of the South China Sea dispute.


Why is the South China Sea issue one of the region’s most pressing issues?

Why is the South China Sea issue one of the region’s most pressing issues?

The ruling was a major blow to Beijing’s claims over much of the disputed waters known as the historic „nine-dash line” and is considered a taboo topic in Chinese relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Several topographical observers reported.

The 10-member alliance includes several South China Sea claimants. But with the exception of the Philippines, most ASEAN members — including rival Vietnam, which voiced support for the 2016 ruling — have largely avoided mentioning the arbitration case publicly for fear of aggravating China.

The arbitration ruling has emboldened international critics of China’s assertive posture, with the United States and its allies often singling out Beijing for its „militarization” of the vast, resource-rich South China Sea and ignoring the „final and legal” outcome. .

As military tensions between China and the Philippines near a boiling point in a series of violent skirmishes in the disputed waters, analysts have warned that the risks of a second arbitration case against Beijing are rising.

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„The possibility of another arbitration initiated by the Philippines is very high,” a Chinese expert said privately. „It’s like a sword hanging over China’s head that other claimant countries can use whenever they want.”

While it is still too late to say whether Beijing wants to participate in such an international arbitration, experts say it is at least partially prepared for a „brutal showdown”.

Late last month China’s Foreign Ministry issued a warning against such a move, with spokesman Mao Ning reiterating that the 2016 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) arbitration was „illegal”.

But while relations with the Philippines are unlikely to return to the era of Beijing-friendly former President Rodrigo Duterte, it is not too late to avoid a second mediation.

Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo is trying hard to bring Beijing back to the negotiating table on Tuesday, a week after one of their worst maritime clashes.


Chinese and Philippine ships collide in the first incident under Beijing’s new coast guard law

Chinese and Philippine ships collide in the first incident under Beijing’s new coast guard law

Even if diplomatic dialogue is not enough, both sides should at least take urgent steps to reduce tensions and avoid armed conflict.

As Manila has shown a willingness to return to talks, Beijing should also respond positively by tempering its rhetoric about Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his pro-American stance and refraining from the use of force.

Beijing needs to rethink its approach towards Manila, which is widely seen as aggressive and hostile. This is especially so when it comes to the disputed second Thomas Shoal, known in China as Renai Jiao, a part of the Spratly Islands claimed by both sides.

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Their latest and most violent clash took place on June 17 in the Shoal Sea.

Even smaller countries like the Philippines have agency and, while it is difficult for Beijing to appreciate the ability to make sovereign decisions, Manila must not see everything it does through the lens of US-China rivalry.

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