Hague Tribunal: China Has No Historic Rights Over South China Sea (Download PDF)


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The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague; Ruling was given by a five-member panel for economic rights across large swathes of South China Sea. The Netherlands has rejected China’s claims.

  • Five-member panel appointed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague in a case brought by the Philippines.
  • Ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which China and Philippines have signed.
  • Ruling is mandatory but the tribunal has no powers for enforcement.
Image shows the South China Sea

Image Shows the South China Sea

Showing image of South China Sea


  • As per PCA, the tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights within the sea areas falling within the ’nine-dash line.
  • By building artificial islands in South China Sea, China has disrupted the Philippines’ independent rights and also caused severe harm to the coral reef environment.
  • The exclusive economic zones (EEZ) provided in the UNCLOS.
  • China’s rights are incompatible with EFZ.

Background detail:

  • Issue between Philippines and China began in 2009.
  • After a tense stand-off over Scarborough Shoal, this managed to China to gain de facto control of it in 2012.
  • For the Law of the Sea in 2013, Philippines had stayed its suit against China at the International Tribunal,
  • It saying, China has dishonored the UNCLOS in both countries are signatories.
  • China has refused the tribunal, Since Philippines had filed the appeal in The international court of Hague.
  • Similarly, disputed territory in the East China Sea in 2013 when China set up an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

South China Sea disputes:

  • South China Sea disputes are fight mainly between China, Philippines, Vietnam over the territorial autonomy in South China Sea along with other islands, reefs and unsteady outcrops.

China’s claim:

  • It is saying major portion of these islands included them are part of the historical events and area defined by Nine Dash Line.
  • China already started and even completed building artificial islands.
  • It’s also completed strategic runways for forming its airforce from these islands.
  • China’s claim joints the South China Sea areas of different claimant’s countries.
  • That involves Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Significance of South China Sea:

  • It is advantageously located and it is major international shipping route.
  • It is world’s half merchant ships passes through it.
  • South China Sea rich in energy (reserves of natural resources like petroleum around them), mineral and fishing resources.

- Published/Last Modified on: July 14, 2016


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