Editor's Pick South China Sea: Waters of Contention

China returns Philippine notice on UN suit

Hong Lei feb. 19CHINA on Tuesday announced that it returned the  Philippine notification of its suit filed at a United  Nations arbitral court  handed to the Chinese ambassador in Manila last. Jan 22, a Xinhua report said.

The report carried by said, “The Chinese government has rejected a Philippine move to take their dispute regarding sovereignty issues in the South China Sea to the United Nations for arbitration, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.”

Xinhua  quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei saying,”Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing had an appointment with officials from the Philippines’ Foreign Ministry on Tuesday and returned a note and related notice after expressing China’s rejection.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued this statement:

The Department received this afternoon from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing a Note Verbale stating that China rejects and returns the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim.

The Department stresses that China’s action will not interfere  with the process of Arbitration initiated by the Philippines on January 22, 2013. The Arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of UNCLOS and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China.

In its Note Verbale, China reiterated its often stated position that it has indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea encompassed by its 9-dash line claim. This excessive claim is the core issue of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China.

The Philippines remains committed to Arbitration which is a friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement that should be welcomed by all.

“The note and related notice not only violate the consensus enshrined in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), but are also factually flawed and contain false accusations,” Hong said.

The report said, “China is committed to addressing the dispute through bilateral talks, Hong said, noting that the consensus in the DOC states that disputes should be solved through talks between the nations directly involved.

Hong reiterated that China has sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence to support its claim to the Nansha islands, which are located in the South China Sea, and their adjacent waters, the report also said.

“China hopes the Philippines will honor its commitment by not taking any action that could complicate the issue, positively respond to China’s proposal to establish a bilateral dialogue mechanism on maritime issues and work to solve the issue through bilateral negotiations,” Hong said.

Under the UN arbitral court rules, China has until Feb. 22 to appoint an arbitrator. If it fails to do so, the case will proceed and the president of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), Japanese ex-diplomat and jurist  Shunji Yanai, will appoint an arbitrator on behalf of China from a list of arbitrators to be provided by the UN Secretary General.

Following is the official transcript of Hong’s briefing which was conducted in Chinese:

Chinese Spokesperson Hong Lei’s remarks on China returned the Philippines’ Notification on the submission of South China Sea issue to international Arbitration

Q: It is said that China has returned the Philippines’ Notification on the submission of South China Sea issue to international Arbitration, please confirm.

A: China’s position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. China’s sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters is supported by abundant historical and legal evidence. Meanwhile, bearing in mind the larger interest of China-Philippines relations and regional peace and stability, China has remained committed to resolving the disputes through bilateral negotiations, and has made every effort to maintain stability and to promote regional cooperation in the South China Sea. To resolve the disputes through negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned is also the consensus between China and ASEAN countries as stipulated in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). The Philippines’ Note Verbale and the attached Notification not only runs counter to the consensus, but also contains many grave errors both in fact and in law, and includes many false accusations against China. China firmly opposes to this.

On Feb. 19, Ambassador of China to the Philippines Ma Keqing met with officials of Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, and stated that the Chinese side rejected and returned the Philippines’ Note Verbale and the attached Notification.

The Chinese side hopes that the Philippine side keeps its word, not to take any action that magnifies and complicates the issue, responds positively to China’s proposals on establishing a bilateral regular consultation mechanism on maritime issues, resumes the operation of the Confidence Building Measures Mechanism(CBMs) as established between the two countries, and reverts to the right track of settling the disputes through bilateral negotiations.