MILCOM — Now that a world court has definitively ruled China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea illegal, here comes the hard part: Getting China to abide by the ruling.
Multiple analysts agreed Wednesday that expanded U.S. freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea could play a part, but that diplomatic resolve within the Asia-Pacific region is critical to change Beijing’s behavior.
China has stated since the case began in 2013 that it would not recognize the verdict delivered Tuesday by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which found in favor of the Philippines on 14 claims, and said it lacked jurisdiction on one other claim.
The 479-page decision backs up what the U.S. and most of the world’s legal analysts outside of China have long stated:
• China has no right to build artificial islands with military outposts on underwater reefs inside the exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, of other nations.
• Beijing can’t use an ambiguous map feature covering 90 percent of the sea, known as the “nine-dash line,” to claim other countries’ EEZs as its national waters.
• China’s argument that it holds “historical rights” to the sea carry no weight under law, and if they could have, China ceded them when it ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The ruling theoretically shuts down China’s claim to control a body of water where $5 trillion in seaborne trade transits annually, including $1.2 trillion in estimated U.S. trade.
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