CoFR | Decision Imminent on China-Philippines South China Sea Dispute

via the Council on Foreign Relations:

 

China - Philippines - South China Sea (200x200)Decision Imminent on China-Philippines South China Sea Dispute

July 11, 2016

Tomorrow, an international tribunal in The Hague is expected to deliver its verdict on the Philippines’ legal case against China’s claims in the South China Sea.

[…]

Indeed, while senior Obama administration officials said little about the case last year, in recent weeks they have repeatedly mentioned it, warning Beijing not to launch provocative actions after the ruling, and emphasizing that the court is a neutral decider.

[…]

China is not actually participating in the case, rejecting any third-party efforts to resolve South China Sea disputes. Yet although China has said that it rejects the Court’s jurisdiction and will not heed any ruling made, Beijing seems to have become increasingly skittish that the court is going to rule against Beijing.

A ruling could not really be enforced, but it would give the Philippines legitimacy and leverage in dealing with China. A ruling against China’s claims also possibly would strengthen the claims of other countries, like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, to the South China Sea. It is very likely that, tomorrow, the tribunal will rule against Beijing.

In recent months, China has apparently exerted significant pressure on Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and other ASEAN nations it considers potential allies to prevent ASEAN from releasing a consensus statement about the ruling. Beijing also has used state media and other outlets to public cast doubt on the court’s legitimacy before the ruling is released.

If the ruling goes against China, and Beijing responds with a show of force in the South China Sea—clearly increasing the pace of building on man-made islands or declaring an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, for instance—it will be a critical test of how far the United States will go to support its allies and partners with South China Sea claims.

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