China insists arbitral ruling is 'illegal' amid Indonesia's protest

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
China insists arbitral ruling is 'illegal' amid Indonesia's protest
In this Jan. 2, 2020 photo, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang holds a regular press conference in Beijing.

MANILA, Philippines — China continues to reject the July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

This follows the protest of Indonesia over the presence of a Chinese coast guard vessel in the Natuna waters, the portion of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Chinese Foreign Ministry insisted that its position on the South China Sea is in compliance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"The so-called award of the South China Sea arbitration is illegal, null and void and we have long made it clear that China neither accepts nor recognizes it," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press briefing Thursday.

The arbitral award ruled in favor of the Philippines, concluding that China's construction of artificial islands within the country's EEZ violated UNCLOS provisions.

More than three years after the landmark ruling was issued, China still refuses to acknowledge the ruling and insists sovereignty over the area.

"The Chinese side firmly opposes any country, organization or individual using the invalid arbitration award to hurt China's interests," Geng said.

Indonesia cited the arbitral award in its diplomatic protest against China, stressing that Beijing's historical claims over the South China Sea have no legal basis and have never been recognized by the UNCLOS.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that under the UNCLOS, Jakarta does not have overlapping claims with Beijing.

"Indonesia Urges the People's Republic of China to explain the legal basis and clear boundaries regarding the claims of the PRC in ZEEI based on UNCLOS 1982," the Indonesian foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

In August last year, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would raise the arbitral ruling when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The two leaders, however, agreed to stick with their opposing views on the maritime dispute.

While Duterte was "steadfast" in raising the West Philippine Sea issue with his Chinese counterpart, Xi reiterated his government's stand on not recognizing the arbitral ruling, according to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

"Both President Duterte and President Xi agreed that while their variant positions will have to remain, their differences however need not derail nor diminish the amity between the two countries," Panelo said in August last year.

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