Berlin (EAST SEA) Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 / 12:40 AM

PCA’s historic East Sea ruling

(VOVworld) – On July 12 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague announced its ruling in the Philippines case against China’s nine-dash line claims of historical rights in the East Sea. 


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Philippine activists celebrated the PCA ruling in Manila on July 12 (Photo: AFP/VNA)


The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which was constituted under Annex VII to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in The Hague, Netherlands, rejected China’s territorial claims in the East Sea known as the 9-dash line. It was a historic ruling on current East Sea disputes and set a precedent for international maritime law.

Disclaiming the so-called China’s historical rights in the East Sea

The PCA said China has not produced any persuasive legal evidence to prove its sovereignty within the so-called nine-dash line in the East Sea. China has repeatedly talked about its “historical rights” over entities within the nine-dash line.

The PCA ruled against China’s nine-dash line claims and said China has no legal foundation for its claims, which overrun its rights as specified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The PCA said no maritime feature in the Spratly Archipelago is able to create an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for China. The ruling accused China of causing irreparable damage to the coral reef in the Spratly Archipelago. Although this is not the first time China’s historical rights have been mentioned in an international court, the PCA ruling clearly rejected China’s claims of historical rights under UNCLOS and also rejected the argument that those historical rights in the East Sea existed prior to UNCLOS.

International legal norms

The PCA’s ruling on the legal status of a number of islands in the Spratly archipelago based on Article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) rejects China’s vague claim of sovereignty over certain entities in the Spratlys. The PCA ruled that entities, including Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, Gaven Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Hugh Reef, and the Second Thomas Shoal are not islands so they are not entitled to a 200 nautical mile sea area under UNCLOS. This is the first time that Article 121 of the UNCLOS has been explained and clarified. The PCA’s ruling will change the way countries interpret and apply international maritime law. Countries are expected to develop an objective legal norm for other entities in the East Sea to determine the sea areas they are entitled to according to UNCLOS. The PCA’s ruling asserts the role of international arbitration agencies in settling complicated maritime disputes.

Obedience to international law, basis for peace

Following the PCA’s ruling, the Philippine government said it will respect the ruling, calling it an important contribution to resolving disputes in the East Sea. Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said Manila will explain its next steps to ensure that the ruling will be implemented peacefully. Former President Benigno Aquino said the ruling has created transparency in the East Sea and will help claimant countries reach peaceful solutions through negotiations.

European Council President Donald Tusk said he hopes the ruling will aid efforts to find a peaceful solution to disputes in the East Sea.

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