MH Rajesh writes: The International Tribunal’s verdict on the Philippines case regarding the South China Sea is out today. It rejects China’s claim for territorial waters around rocky outcrops, which were the basis of China stopping Philippine fishermen from fishing in those waters. It also condemns the large ocean engineering projects of Island building which causes severe harm to Coral Reefs in that area especially when the dispute resolution was in progress. China did not participate in the three year old arbitration at The Hague, which didn’t stop the tribunal from its proceedings.
China not only claims several islands, which is a territorial issue, but has an expansive nine dashed line of pre UNCLOS vintage, which has no locus standi as per United Nations Conventions of the Laws of the Sea which it has ratified. It bases this claim on history. The verdict dents such a claim and can impact other cases in the region. As a permanent member of the Security Council, and a major power in the making it would augur well for China to abide by the rule of law, which is an important national and international tenet. More importantly as a responsible power it would do well to uphold the concept of ‘Mare Liberum’ or the concept of open seas, which serves as the bedrock of maritime commerce, which has benefited China itself in its past thirty year’s spectacular growth.