Philippines requires South China Sea claim to Hague court

AMSTERDAM Lawyers for the Philippines will appear just before a panel of international judges in The Hague on Tuesday, searching for a ruling that could bolster territorial claims by a series of countries against China in the resource-wealthy South China Sea.

The Philippines is asking the Permanent Court of Arbitration to recognize its proper to exploit waters within 200 nautical miles of its coastline, below the terms of a U.N. convention.

China, which claims economic and territorial rights in virtually the entire body of water, has boycotted the proceedings and rejects the court’s authority in the case.

But specialists say the ruling could influence other cases in the heated South China Sea dispute – involving Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and other countries. Indonesia has signaled it may also go to the courts.

The claims by an increasingly assertive China – primarily based on specks of rock that it owns, dotted throughout the location with names like Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef – have triggered protests among its neighbors about the Pacific rim.

The United States, traditionally the region’s dominant security player, also objects to China’s moves, sending military aircraft to survey China’s improvement activities.

The court, set up in 1899 as 1 of the 1st international judicial institutions, said it would hear arguments such as a single contending that several South China Sea reefs and shoals have been not a considerable enough basis for China’s claims.

Court rulings are supposed to be binding on its member countries, which contain China. But the tribunal has no powers of enforcement and its rulings have been ignored before.

The Philippines’ case is primarily based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – a pact that does not cover matters of sovereignty, but outlines a technique of territory and economic zones that can be claimed from characteristics such as islands, rocks and reefs.

The Philippines will make submissions on 15 claims in the course of the proceedings, which are expected to final around a week.

China says the legal challenge could delay a negotiated settlement in between the two countries.

Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia will also observe the pleadings, which will run until Nov. 30 in private. A final ruling is anticipated in mid-2016.

(Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Andrew Heavens)

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