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Beijing’s claims to South China Sea rejected by international tribunal

OWON: Beijing rejects any US games to corral China within the China Seas. Beijing says Shove It, now what?

Beijing’s claims to South China Sea rejected by international tribunal

The Washington Post
By Simon Denyer
and Emily Rauhala
12 July 2016

BEIJING — China’s expansive assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea suffered a major blow Tuesday when an international tribunal ruled that its claims have no legal or historical basis, throwing up the possibility of a new period of tension and confrontation in the region.

Beijing fiercely rejected the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which sided unequivocally with the Philippines against China. The United States urged calm.

China’s government has whipped up nationalist sentiment in recent years to support its “indisputable sovereignty” over a huge swath of the South China Sea, and it has engaged in an intensive program of island-building there to extend its de facto control.

China is now faced with a dilemma: It can signal its displeasure at the ruling by extending that program and militarizing the islands it controls, risking confrontation and even conflict with emboldened Asian neighbors and the United States. Or it can suspend the program and adopt a more conciliatory approach, at the risk of a loss of face domestically.

“It’s a slap in the face for China,” said Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University. “It’s a lose-lose situation for China — take action and risk armed confrontation or, while reiterating its tough stance, stop building and fishing, which is what the ruling asks.”

The tribunal also ruled that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights by constructing artificial islands and had caused “permanent irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem.”

The decision was hailed as a landmark victory for those worried that Beijing is extending its military control over waters with key strategic and commercial significance. But Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled that he was in no mood to back down.

“The islands in the South China Sea have been Chinese territories since ancient times,” he said, according to state media. “China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on these awards.”

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