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The Hague court ruling downgrades ROC's status: foreign minister

2016/07/12 23:24:21

Foreign Minister David Lee

Taipei, July 12 (CNA) Foreign Minster David Lee (李大維) said late Tuesday that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has downgraded the Republic of China's status as a sovereign state in its ruling on South China Sea disputes.

Lee said that the court's reference to the ROC as "Taiwan Authority of China" in its ruling is not adequate and has belittled the ROC's sovereignty.

Furthermore, Lee added, the ruling has seriously undermined the ROC's legal status in the South China Sea islands and its rights in the surrounding waters.

The Hague-based court said in the ruling that all high-tide features in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, including the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island, are "rocks" and not islands, and therefore are not entitled to 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones.

Lee criticized the court for "inflating" its power by declaring the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island --- the largest of the South China Sea islands -- along with the others currently occupied by Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia as "rocks," which are not entitled to the 200-nautical-mile economic zones.

The Philippines, while bringing the case to the court, did not list Taiping Island (Itu Aba) as one of the objectives subject to the arbitration, according to Lee.

Lee said that it's undoubted that the ROC has been entitled to the rights to the South China Sea islands and surrounding waters under international and maritime laws.

The decision by the tribunal is non-binding on the ROC since the court did not invite the ROC to participate in the proceedings and did not consult with Taiwan before handing down the decision.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) said Taiping Island is definitely an island under article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea since it possesses an ecological system that can support human
inhabitation and daily life.

Yeh said that the ROC has claimed sovereignty over the Nansa (Spratly), Xisha (Paracel) Islands, Zhongsha (Macclesfield) Islands and Tungsha (Pratas) Islands in the South China Sea when it proclaimed the "position maps of South China Sea Islands" as early as 1974.

Both Lee and Yeh said that the court's ruling is totally unacceptable to the ROC, which has advocated a peaceful settlement of disputes and promotion of peace and stability in the area through bilateral or multilateral negotiations.

The Presidential Office in a statement earlier that day said "the ROC absolutely will not accept the ruling and maintains that it is not legally binding on the country."

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.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Liu Li-jung and Bear Lee)