South China Sea

Tribunal Rejects Beijing’s Claims in South China Sea
The New York Times - July 12, 2016

BEIJING — An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, including its construction of artificial islands, and found that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.

The landmark case, brought by the Philippines, was seen as an important crossroads in China’s rise as a global power and in its rivalry with the United States, and it could force Beijing to reconsider its assertive tactics in the region or risk being labeled an international outlaw. It was the first time the Chinese government had been summoned before the international justice system.

In its most significant finding, the tribunal rejected China’s argument that it enjoys historic rights over most of the South China Sea. That could give the governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam more leverage in their own maritime disputes with Beijing.

The tribunal also said that China had violated international law by causing "irreparable harm" to the marine environment, endangering Philippine ships and interfering with Philippine fishing and oil exploration.

But while the decision is legally binding, there is no mechanism for enforcing it, and China, which refused to participate in the tribunal’s proceedings, reiterated on Tuesday that it would not abide by it.

Click on the reports to read more on the South China Sea arbitration by CNA experts.


News Coverage of CNA Experts

The experts at CNA are often asked to comment on issues in the news. The views expressed in these articles are their own.

CNA Senior Vice President Mark Rosen, JD, LLM, and Senior Fellow RADM Michael McDevitt weigh in on the tribunal decision on the South China Sea:

September 22, 2018

Michael McDevitt says, “China is essentially, through the use of this historic rights claim, trying to snatch 60% of the resources that ought to belong to Vietnam and the Philippines.”

BBC World News: “The Chinese Government’s Ambition in the South China Sea” [Interview at 37:00]

September 20, 2018

Michael McDevitt says, “As China’s military power grows relative to the United States, and it will, questions will also grow regarding America’s ability to deter Beijing’s use of force in settling its unresolved territorial issues.”

The New York Times: “China’s Sea Control Is a Done Deal, ‘Short of War With the U.S.’”

June 27, 2018

Michael McDevitt says, “What vital U.S. interest has been compromised? Shipping continues uninterrupted, the U.S. continues to ignore… their requirement for prior approval, our MDT with Manila remains in force…”

CIMSEC: “False Assumptions May Lead to Counterproductive U.S. Policy in the South China Sea”

June 8, 2018

According to the CNA report The South China Sea: Assessing US Policy and Options for the Future “China resolved the sovereignty dispute with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in 2012 when it established control over the shoal. Again, it is unlikely to relinquish it.”

The Manila Times: “Two Aquinos Lost Us Philippine Territory, Marcos Acquired Territory”

February 26, 2018

Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt says, "I think the odds are very low that either Japan or China is looking for a fight over the Senkakus, and I'm quite certain the United States is not looking for a fight with China over the Senkakus"

NHK: "China's Maritime Strategy"

Thought Leadership

CNA Talks Podcast: Episode 19

Russia experts Jeffrey Edmonds and Michael Kofman recap the Helsinki Summit to break down what has been overplayed or overlooked in the debate, what the Russians hoped to get out of the meeting and did or didn't achieve, and the nuances which are often lost in translation between the U.S. and Russian policy communities. Listen now.

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