Pacific News Minute: China Stages Military Exercises in South China Sea ahead of UN Court Ruling

Jul 6, 2016

Like a cows tongue.
Credit Voice of America / Wikimedia Commons

China's Navy and Air Force are holding exercises in the South China Sea this week, scheduled to conclude just one day before a UN court issues a long awaited ruling next week that threatens to undermine China's claims in the area.  We have details on the case from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

China claims that a vast swath of water to its south and east has been Chinese since the Ming Dynasty and sent fishing fleets escorted by huge Coast Guard ships to slowly reclaim what it sees as its own territory.  This case dates to 2012, when they used water cannon to hose Philippine fishermen off their decks and seized Scarborough Shoal, almost due west of Manila.

China's legal claim is based on a map produced by Nationalist China in 1947, which shows a nine-dash line extending south and east.  Due to its shape, it's sometimes called the cow's tongue.  In 2013, the Philippines filed suit with the Permanent Court of Arbitration, established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  While it's a member of that treaty, China argues it does not apply in this case, refused to participate in the proceedings and declared it will not comply with any judgement.

Last week, Paul Reichler, an American lawyer who served as lead counsel for the Philippines told the Associated Press that while this ruling would only apply to China and the Philippines, "If the nine dash line is unlawful as applied by China against the Philippines, then logically, it is equally unlawful as applied by China against other states." The US has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines and sent warships into the disputed area in recent months to assert its claim, that the South China Sea is International waters, open to all.