U.S. calls for peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes

07/12/2016 09:50 PM
CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, July 12 (CNA) The United States encouraged all South China Sea claimants to clarify their maritime claims in line with international law and urged all parties concerned to address disputes peacefully, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Tuesday, in response to an international court ruling on South China Sea disputes.

"Consistent with our longstanding policy, we support the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, including the use of international legal mechanisms such as arbitration," said AIT acting spokeswoman Alys Spensley. The AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic relations.

The U.S. encourages all claimants in the South China Sea to clarify their maritime claims in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to "work together creatively and peacefully to manage and resolve their disputes," she added.

Although the AIT does not comment on the merits of the case, Spensley said the tribunal's decision is legally binding on both the Philippines and China.

The Philippines brought the case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, 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.

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, the Philippines argued.

China has repeatedly rejected the tribunal's jurisdiction over the case since it was filed in 2013.

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

In a "final and binding" 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 concluded that 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, the ruling stated.

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 Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/ke

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