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Taiwan does not accept South China Sea ruling: Presidential Office

2016/07/12 20:58:20

CNA file photo

Taipei, July 12 (CNA) The Republic of China (Taiwan) said Tuesday that it will not accept the ruling by an international court that all high-tide features in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, including Taiwan-controlled Taiping, are "rocks" and not islands.

"We absolutely will not accept and we maintain that the ruling is not legally binding on the ROC," the Presidential Office said in a statement after the ruling was released earlier in the day.

The Presidential Office also reiterated the ROC's stance that it holds sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters.

The government will make every effort to safeguard the country's sovereignty and territory and protect the interests of the country, the Presidential Office said.

The arbitration court did not invite the ROC to participate in the proceedings and did not consult with Taiwan before handing down the decision, the Presidential Office said, adding that the ruling has seriously undermined the ROC's maritime rights over South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters.

The statement was issued in response to the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the Netherlands on a case brought by the Philippines against China, arguing that the land formations claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea are not islands and therefore are not entitled to 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zones.

The Philippines also argued that China's "nine-dash line" territorial claim over South China Sea waters was unlawful under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

While Taiwan is not party to the case, its claims in the South China Sea are similar to those of China. Taiping Island (also known as Itu Aba), which is controlled by Taiwan, was brought up in testimony during the court hearings.

In its ruling, the court noted that many of the features in the Spratly Islands are currently controlled by some countries, "which have constructed installations and maintain personnel there."

It considered "these modern presences to be dependent on outside resources and support" and said many of the features had been modified to improve their habitability.

After examining the historical record, the court said, it found that the Spratly Islands were historically used by small groups of fishermen from China and other countries, and that several Japanese fishing and guano mining enterprises had been attempted in the 1920s and 1930s.

"The Tribunal concluded that temporary use of the features by fishermen did not amount to inhabitation by a stable community and that all of the historical economic activity had been extractive in nature," the ruling said.

Accordingly, the tribunal said, all of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands (including Itu Aba, Thitu, West York Island, Spratly Island, North-East Cay and South-West Cay) are legally "rocks" that do not generate an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

Features that are above water at high tide generate an entitlement to at least a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, the court said in its ruling.

Citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the court said that islands generate an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and a continental shelf, and must be able to sustain a stable community of people or economic activity that is not dependent on outside resources.

The 0.51-square-kilometer Taiping, the largest land mass in the Spratly Islands, lies about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.

Six countries -- Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- claim part or all of the islands in the resource-rich South China Sea and their surrounding waters.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Elaine Hou)