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English>>Foreign Affairs

Manila heightens South China Sea tension in The Hague

(Global Times)    08:40, July 08, 2015

Arbitration may complicate territorial disputes: analyst

South China Sea sovereignty disputes will only become more complicated and not resolved following Manila's appeal to the arbitration tribunal in The Hague, analysts said.

They also criticized Manila for hyping up the issue in front of the international community and dangerously making excuses for non-claimant countries, such as the US, to participate in South China Sea disputes.

"China will neither accept nor participate in the arbitral proceeding unilaterally initiated by the Philippines," Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, told a regular press briefing on Tuesday, adding that China has expounded this position on many previous occasions.

In 2013, the Philippines filed an arbitration case at The Hague questioning the maritime boundaries claimed by China. The hearing is scheduled between Tuesday and July 13.

During the first round of talks at The Hague, the arbitration tribunal will decide whether it has jurisdiction over the case.

Hua said the Philippines' moves are in breach of the agreement that has been repeatedly reaffirmed with China as well as the Philippines' undertakings in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

"The essence of the subject matter of the arbitration is the territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the Convention and does not concern the interpretation or application of the Convention," read a position paper China released in December 2014.

The Straits Times reported Tuesday that a high-profile team from Manila was led by Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

The team will be assisted by Paul Reichler of the Washington-based law firm Foley and Hoag.

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, estimated that it may take the tribunal one month to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the case after the hearing ends on July 13.

Liu Feng, an expert on South China Sea studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the Philippines voluntarily gave up on negotiations with China in order to pose as a victim of a greater power and seek sympathy.

"If the court decides it has jurisdiction, other countries that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea like Vietnam may follow suit," Liu said.

He noted that the Philippines' move could enable non-claimant countries, such as the US, to strengthen their presence in the waters and encourage Japan to settle disputes over the East China Sea with China in a similar way.

Experts also believe that Manila is attempting to pressure China by hyping up the dispute at the international tribunal.

"Manila seemingly rushed to make a decision for the Netherlands-based judges when the hearing has yet to conclude," Wu said, adding that its ambition can be simply understood from its large delegation.

The Philippines plans to ramp up military spending over the next 13 years, earmarking more than $20 billion to modernize its forces, a top air force official told Reuters.

Major-General Raul del Rosario, military chief of plans, said the blueprint includes installing radars and sensors, and buying submarines, frigates, fighters, surveillance planes and missile systems. He said the plan was initiated in 2013, but top brass had only approved overall spending of $22.11 billion last week.

China, on the other hand, has not given up efforts to resolve the issues through diplomatic channels.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, said in Manila that China has renewed its offer to resolve the conflict through one-on-one negotiations with the Philippines.

"Our door for bilateral consultations and negotiations is still open and will be open forever," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying on Monday.

Experts also believe that Manila is shifting the focus to fishing to circumvent territorial disputes.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court told Philippine media Rappler that "If we lose 80 percent of our exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, that means we lose 80 percent of the fish we catch annually in the South China Sea."

Manila simply used fishing rights to deflect the tribunal from thinking about the jurisdiction over the issue, Wang Xiaopeng, a maritime border expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

"However, the Philippines can by no means evade the territorial disputes, as contending for the fishing rights is a territorial dispute over the fishing grounds in essence," Wu noted.

Xinhua contributed to this story

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yao Chun,Liang Jun)

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