DigitalGlobe imagery shows nearly completed construction in the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, in the western part of the Spratly Islands.(DigitalGlobe)
A photo taken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows disputed construction by China at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratley Islands in the south China Sea.(Armed Forces of the Philippines )
DigitalGlobe satellite image shows what is claimed to be an under-construction airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea.(DigitalGlobe)
A Filipino holds a placard reading “Hands Off PH!” while protesting outside the Chinese consular office in Makati, near Manilla, against China’s territorial claims over the disputed Spratly Islands.(Francis R. Malasig / EPA)
A handout photo provided by the oiffice of the president of Taiwan shows an aerial photograph of Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba Island, in the South China Sea. The international tribunal in the Hague issued its ruling that China has no legal basis for its “nine-dash line” claiming most of the South China Sea.(Oiffce of the president of Taiwan)
Delivering a sweeping moral victory for the Philippines, an international tribunal ruled Tuesday that China’s claims to “historic rights” across a vast expanse of the South China Sea are invalid.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands, also said that no land formations in the South China Sea — whoever controls them — are big enough to warrant exclusive maritime zones beyond 12 miles.
In recent years, China has asserted what it views as territorial rights in the sea by building up remote reefs into much larger land forms. Its fishing fleets have used those assertions to move into areas claimed by other countries, including the Philippines.
The five-judge panel said China’s island-building activities violated the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, as did its moves to deny Filipinos access to their traditional fishing grounds. The panel also rapped China for environmental destruction it said was a breach of UNCLOS.
There is no way for the Philippines to immediately enforce the ruling, and it is not clear what practical effect it might have. Experts said it could force Manila and Beijing back to the negotiating table — or prompt other countries to take similar legal action.