Tribunal rules in favour of the Philippines

There was a heavy police presence around the Philippine embassy in Beijing yesterday and the road to the mission was closed off, although the situation was calm.

Ruling on a variety of disputes the Philippines had asked the tribunal to settle, the five-member panel unanimously concluded that China had violated its obligations to refrain from aggravating the dispute while the settlement process was ongoing. China's territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in South China Sea, in any circumstances, will not be affected by the award.

"Australia will continue to exercise our global law rights to Freedom of Navigation and overflight, and support the right of others to do so", she said.

China is firmly committed to peace and stability in the South China Sea, and to settling the disputes with countries directly involved, through peaceful negotiations based on the recognition of historical facts and in accordance with worldwide law, he said.

But at the same time, tensions have grown over China's land reclamation in the South China Sea, where it has created artificial islands with military facilities, viewed by the an attempt to gain effective control of the area.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the White House policy director for Asia, said Monday's ruling in the case brought by the Philippines was "an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea".

He called on the European Union to maintain an objective stance and neutrality on the issue.

The tribunal said that any historic rights to resources that China may have had were wiped out if they are incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under a United Nations treaty that both countries have signed and which came into effect in 1994.

"On whether China will set up a air defence zone over the South China Sea, what we have to make clear first is that China has the right to...But whether we need one in the South China Sea depends on the level of threats we face", the Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Beijing, adding that China hopes to return to bilateral talks with Manila.

President Xi Jinping said China would not accept any proposition or action based on the decision by the tribunal, state media reported. It also said China had caused "severe harm to the coral reef environment" by building artificial islands.

The two both spoke at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, and their comments reflected how the South China Sea is increasingly the spoiler in relations between the USA and China. "China neither accepts nor recognizes it", the foreign ministry's statement said.

China drafted its so-called nine-dash line to demarcate its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea. In Manila, dozens of rallying Filipinos jumped for joy, wept, embraced each other and waved Philippine flags after news of their victory.

The aftermath of the ruling could be greatly influenced by new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office late last month and inherited a case filed by his predecessor.

Beijing boycotted the PCA proceedings, saying it had no jurisdiction to rule on the issues, and has mounted a huge diplomatic and publicity drive to try to discredit the tribunal and its decision.

Gomez reported from Manila, Philippines.

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