Lee Seokwoo, Nong Hong
From 2009 several major developments occurred that once again stirred up controversy in the South China Sea (SCS) and highlighted the difficulties of maintaining stability in the region. The Philippines has stepped forward with a series of
movements, including its notification on January 22, 2013 to China that it sued this State by establishing an arbitration tribunal according to Annex VII of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In response, China, on January 31, rejected this request.
What is the consequence following this? Will the arbitration tribunal exercise jurisdiction over this dispute? The formulation of a tribunal without the appointment of an arbitrator from China certainly disadvantages China. What is the impact of the Philippine’s arbitration initiative for the negotiation and drafting process of the Code of Conduct that ASEAN and many stakeholders, such as US, are desperately hoping for? What is the value and role of the UNCLOS in maritime dispute settlements in the South China Sea and in a broader sense?
This paper attempts to address the above questions from the Chinese perspective. It first lays out the dispute settlement regime under Part XV of UNCLOS, and then explores the different approaches of the SCS claimant States towards a third party compulsory settlement mechanism and state practice of maritime dispute settlement. It then looks closely at the Philippines’ arbitration notification and statement and discusses the process and substance of this case. It lists possible reactions of China by analyzing the potential cost and benefit of each approach. It continues to explore the impact of this test by the Philippines on the ongoing efforts and processes of a conflict management and dispute settlement in this SCS dispute. The role and value of UNCLOS in maritime dispute settlement will also be discussed.