The dispute over territorial waters in the South China Sea progressed slightly this week after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Netherlands stated that it would hear arguments from the Philippines on the issue. China moved to boycott the hearings after the court rejected its argument that the dispute revolved around the sovereignty of its man made islands in the region.
China has long asserted its right to the entire South China Sea, beginning in the aftermath of World War II with maps portraying the so-called “nine-dashed line”. When China submitted a map of the dashed region to the United Nations in 2009, the Philippines filed formal protests against the declaration. This was reinforced by protests from Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
South China Sea expert Bonnie Glaser stated that the news was, “a major blow for China given that the opinion explicitly rejects China's arguments that... the Philippines has not done enough to negotiate the issues with China."
The announcement comes after a U.S. Navy destroyer conducted patrols near the Spratly Islands on Tuesday, which marked the most significant escalation on the issue between the U.S. and China. China has constructed military facilities on its artificial islands in both the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands located further north. A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy stated that similar patrols would take place in the future in order to "protect the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law."
A spokesperson for China’s Defense Ministry criticized the U.S. action, stating, “We would urge the U.S. side not to continue down the wrong path. But if they do, we will take all necessary measures in accordance with the need."
China has continued to issue statements indicating that it is unlikely to back down on the issue, stating that it will not abide by any ruling made by the PCA concerning its actions in the South China Sea.