RECENTLY, the Philippines called for international arbitration to resolve the conflict, which will be launched soon. However, China unequivocally declined to take part in it, labeling the event as illegitimate and against the previous agreement between China and the Philippines, which articulated the fact that disputes, including the South China Sea conflict, will be resolved through bilateral negotiation and through constructive dialogue between the two neighboring nations.
The Chinese government stated clearly its reasons for refusing to participate in the arbitration.
First of all, the Philippines’ action has no basis in international law, which puts its legitimacy into question. Secondly, the international arbitration tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case. Consequently, the logical measure that should have been taken was declining to get involved in the dispute.
Furthermore, the consequences of its decisions are not binding due to its lack of legitimacy. Another important provision of the international law upon which the UN bases its decisions dictates avoiding getting involved in territorial disputes.
Therefore, the dispute is beyond the scope of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), since the arbitration is over the sovereignty of some islands in the disputed waters.
Another fundamental point that weakens the Philippines’ call for arbitration is the fact that arbitration must be discussed by and called for by both the parties involved in the dispute.
The international reaction to the prospective launching of the arbitration varied from one nation to another. Many nations believe that China has the legal and moral right to decline participating in the arbitration.
Some countries with hidden ulterior motives and devious political agendas called China’s refusal “despising international law” or “fearing to lose”.
Of course, using slanderous words to label China’s legal rights to participate in the arbitration, which would lead to nothing but escalating the conflict, is motivated by Western countries’ illogical fear of China’s rising power. Issuing such irresponsible statements accomplishes nothing but demeans their sources.
For certain, China’s stand and handling of the conflict could set a precedent to resolving future territorial disputes.
There is no doubt in my mind that the conflict should be resolved through bilateral constructive dialogue between China and the Philippines, as Chinese leaders have emphasized on several occasions.
Everyone, including myself, hopes that the conflict will be resolved peacefully and the South China Sea will become a sea of friendship and peace, and that the neighborly relations between the countries involved in the conflict will be restored to its historical strength.