UK will need to help efforts to defend international rule of law in light of China’s threats to ignore ruling.
The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) – a London international affairs and security thinktank – recognises the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling against Chinese claims to rights in the South China Sea, and is concerned by Chinese assertions that the ruling will not be recognised.
The court noted that China, having become a party to the UN convention on the Law of the Sea, gave up the historical claims they assert, because the convention gives all countries exclusive economic zone rights (EEZ) within 200 miles of their own coast. Artificially created islands, such as the military bases that China has constructed, don’t count for EEZ purposes; the tribunal concluded that the prevision depends on the objective capacity of a feature, in its natural condition, [our emphasis] to sustain either a stable community of people or economic activity that isn’t dependant on outside resources or purely extractive in nature. These conditions are not met in this case. The notion that construction of artificial islands should enable a country to expand its legal rights over ever larger areas of sea is manifestly absurd.
Dr. Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society said “The Court of Arbitration ruling is a victory for the established Law of the Sea against Chinese aggression. China’s attempts to create a Nine-Dash Line for power projection and natural resource extraction purposes should now cease. The challenge will now be to ensure China complies with the ruling and stops creating facts on the ground contrary to the judgement. Britain needs to play a prominent role in order to protect free movement through important UK trade routes and to defend international Rule of Law, from which we benefit.”
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