While Manila triumphed over Beijing in a historic legal decision last week, the fight in the South China Sea is far from over.
On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a 500-page unanimous ruling in Republic of Philippines v. People’s Republic of China and found that Beijing had violated the Philippines’ economic and sovereign rights.
The court concluded there was no legal basis for China’s nine-dash line territorial claim, which encompasses approximately 85% of the South China Sea.
However, within a day of the ruling, China landed a civilian aircraft on Mischief Reef – a tiny bit of land in the Spratly Islands that was found to belong entirely to the Philippines.
Chinese state-run media published photos of the China Southern Airlines crew posing in front a plane after the landing.
“That timing [of the flight] was clearly a signal of discontent of the ruling, but this was going to happen sooner rather than later,” Gregory Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.
“Of course, in light of the ruling, this is rubbing salt in the Philippines’ wound,” Poling added.
“The court ruled China’s initial occupation of Mischief Reef and its construction of facilities there illegal,” Poling said, “so every day that China continues to make use of those facilities it is violating international law.”