Analyst: Philippines vs China arbitration case will not solve sea dispute
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - December 30, 2015 - 7:14pm

MANILA, Philippines - The arbitration case between the Philippines and China will not help resolve the dispute over the South China Sea as it would result to more conflicts in the region, a maritime analyst said.

Nanyang Technological University Prof. Mingjiang Li said that there is likely to be a "period of greater turbulence" once the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations (UN) releases its decision on the case between the two countries.

The Philippines earlier filed an arbitration case against China before the UN tribunal, challenging the latter's nine-dash line claim over the disputed sea. China refused to participate in the proceedings and reiterated its "indisputable sovereignty" in the South China Sea, justifying its massive reclamation activities in the area.

FULL TEXT: Transcript of merits hearing on Philippines vs China case

Li noted that Beijing is unlikely to change its major policies and positions once the arbitral tribunal issues its decision.

"There is a very strong possibility that Beijing will just ignore the arbitration result, as suggested by ongoing deliberations within Chinese policy circles," Li said in an article published on the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

The analyst pointed out possible consequences once the decision comes out in a few months.

Li said that the South China Sea disputes may become increasingly legalistic and may become more internationalized.

"Other claimant states, and even some non-claimant countries in the region, will be disappointed by Beijing’s rejection of the tribunal’s judgment," Li said.

Beijing's possible rejection of the tribunal's decision may also result to a new round of conflicts and tensions in the disputed sea.

"Some claimant countries will take actions, such as increasing fishing, exploring for new energy resources, and expanding law enforcement activities, in areas the tribunal deems undisputed to test China’s reactions and resolve," the analyst said.

Li added that any tension in the disputed sea may prompt a reaction from the United States. He noted that Chinese foreign policy elites believe that Washington is involved in the case between Manila and Beijing.

Other major players such as Australia and Japan may also increase their presence activities in the disputed sea and conduct freedom of navigation operations like the US, the analyst said.

Beijing is likely to face serious diplomatic challenges in the aftermath of the arbitration, Li said.

"If a new round of conflict and tension takes place, regional views will very likely turn further against Beijing. As a result, China’s relations with Southeast Asia may experience new constraints," Li said.

The analyst added that neighboring countries from Southeast Asia may have reservations toward diplomatic proposals from China.

"Many countries will use rhetoric accusing China of not respecting international law in the South China Sea disputes," the analyst said.

Li said that China should fight the legal battle in the disputed sea instead of avoiding legal contestations.

"The major challenge for China will be how to balance its strategic, security, political, and economic interests in the Asia Pacific and beyond with its territorial and maritime interests in the South China Sea," Li said.

RELATED: Phl lead counsel: China to lose influence if it defies tribunal's decision

ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE ASIA PACIFIC AUSTRALIA AND JAPAN BEIJING CASE CHINA MANILA AND BEIJING QUOT SEA SOUTH CHINA SEA SOUTHEAST ASIA
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