China violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in the South China Sea, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled stating there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by others. The Permanent Court of Arbitration said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources.
The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed. The Tribunal concluded that China's doesn't have the right to marine resources within its "nine dash line," which extends hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan and covers some 90% of the disputed waters.
The Tribunal also found the none of the sea features claimed by China were capable of generating an Exclusive Economic Zone -- which gives country maritime rights to resources such as fish, and oil and gas within 200 nautical miles of that land mass. It deemed they were rocks or low-tide elevations such as reefs, rather than islands.
The ruling, which marks the first time an international court has ruled on the region's mess of overlapping claims, doesn't just affect China, but other countries that have competing claims with the nation over large areas of sea.
The panel found China had caused "severe harm" to coral around the site of its artificial islands. It had also "violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems."
Chinese fisherman had also killed endangered sea turtles and giant clams "on a substantial scale" -- with the full knowledge of China, the tribunal found.
- BBC News
The ruling is binding but the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement. China called the ruling "ill-founded" and says it will not be bound by it. The Chinese state news agency Xinhua said that "as the panel has no jurisdiction, its decision is naturally null and void". In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said China was the first to have discovered and exploited the South China Sea islands and relevant waters, "thus establishing territorial sovereignty and relevant rights and interests".
Chinas rejection of the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration is likely to have lasting implications for the resource-rich hot spot, which includes one of the world's busiest sea lanes.
Despite issuing what's considered a very strong ruling against China, The Tribunal hasn't ordered China to take any particular steps to remedy the situation, dismantle construction on the islands or provide reparations to the Philippines. And while the ruling is regarded as legally binding, there is no mechanism to enforce it.