WASHINGTON TIMES — Washington, Beijing and nervous capitals around the Asia-Pacific region are bracing for the fallout from a highly anticipated ruling by an international tribunal on China’s territorial claims in the hotly contested South China Sea, a decision that could set a key precedent in efforts to curb Chinese expansion in the region.
Members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, are slated to issue their decision Tuesday over a legal challenge filed by the Philippines against Beijing’s efforts to build up military installations on rocky outcroppings in the Spratly Islands, the Scarborough Shoal, the Fiery Cross Reef and other strategic points in the South China Sea.
U.S. diplomatic and military leaders are hoping a decision against China could establish and reinforce new diplomatic norms in addressing territorial disputes in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Pacific, but Beijing has boycotted the case and already signaled it does not respect the tribunal’s authority and will not be bound by an adverse decision.
The tribunal’s decision “does have the potential to crack the door open to new [opportunities] among the parties that would help manage tensions in those disputed spaces,” Colin Willett, deputy assistant secretary of state for strategy in East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a congressional hearing late last week.
The decision will be watched closely by Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan, all of whom have clashed with China as its expanding and assertive navy has aggressively pressed sovereignty claims in the waters of China’s long Pacific coastline.
• HIGH STAKES LEGAL RULING LOOMS IN SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE — ASIA TIMES