- Quang Le/Reuters
China’s lion-share claims to the resource-rich waters in the South China Sea took a huge blow earlier this month after the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a landmark ruling dismissing China’s “nine-dash line” territorial claim.
The court found that Beijing had violated the Philippines’ economic and sovereign rights and concluded there was no legal basis for China’s nine-dash line, which encompasses approximately 85% of the South China Sea.
While the PCA ruling is only binding between Beijing and Manila, it does, however, set a legal foundation by determining that the rules of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea take precedence over China’s historic claims.
In short, if there is no “nine-dash line,” other stakeholders in the South China Sea may be inspired to file lawsuits against China if Beijing refuses to compromise on access to the waters.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, and China all have claims in the South China Sea, making the region one of the most disputed areas on the planet.
On July 12, a panel of legal experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ sixth annual South China Sea conference commented on the effect of the decision on other claimants.
“Because it’s invalid, will it encourage other states” to push back against China’s claims, James Kraska, professor of oceans law and policy at the US Naval War College asked, referring to the nine-dash line. “I think so and I hope so,” he told Business Insider in a question-and-answer session.
“It will have enormous impact on future jurisprudence and on the perceived legitimacy of other claims in the South China Sea and around the world,” said Gregory Poling, CSIS fellow and director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
According to a report from financial market analysis firm BMI Research, Vietnam “is likely to be the key beneficiary from the spillover effects of the ruling.”
Because of similarities in the PCA’s ruling, Vietnam would most likely win in a maritime row against Beijing’s claims in the Paracel Islands but would have to abandon all claims on Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal since those areas fall under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Vietnam would also have to withdraw troops from Alison Reef, Tennent Reef, and Cornwallis Reef in the Spratlys.