BEIJING, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has said on Wednesday that an arbitral tribunal with widely contested jurisdiction will issue an award on July 12 on the South China Sea case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.
China has maintained that the tribunal handling the South China Sea arbitration case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines has no jurisdiction, a stance that has gained broad support.
Here is why:
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal is limited to disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the convention.
But the South China Sea case is in essence about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation.
Territorial issues are not subject to UNCLOS, but to general international law. The tribunal in the Chagos Marine Protected Area Arbitration case noted its verdict in 2015 that sovereignty over land territory is a matter beyond the scope of the interpretation and application of UNCLOS.
As early as in 2006, Beijing declared -- in line with UNCLOS -- to exclude disputes concerning maritime delimitation from mandatory dispute settlement procedures. Some 30 countries have also made similar declarations.
The Philippines has attempted to circumvent the jurisdictional hurdle, claiming that it only wants the tribunal to rule on the limits of China's maritime entitlements, the status and maritime entitlements of relevant features, and the lawfulness of China's maritime activities in the South China Sea, without deciding on the territorial sovereignty over any maritime features.
That is just Manila's smokescreen. A day after launching the arbitration, the Philippine Foreign Ministry described the purpose of the case as to "protect our country's territory and oceanic area" and vowed not to "give up our country's sovereignty."
The objective link between the Philippines' claims and the issue of territorial sovereignty over certain maritime features in the South China Sea is such that a decision on the latter is the precondition to decide on the former, the Chinese Society of International Law explained in a recent article, pointing out that the tribunal errs in treating the former in isolation from sovereignty.
Therefore, in claiming jurisdiction over the case, the tribunal is acting ultra vires: beyond the authorization of UNCLOS and in disregard of China's lawful exclusion.