Q&A on wider impacts of South China Sea ruling: What we should know so far

By AFP   July 13, 2016 | 06:00 am PT
The Hague ruling was chiefly a victory for the Philippines in the David v Goliath legal challenge.

The verdict, by a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague on Tuesday, is meant to be legally binding on just those two countries.

However it has wider ramifications for the region. Here are some key questions and answers on those impacts:

Who are the other winners?

The other nations with South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea) coasts: Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei.

China claims it has sovereignty over waters almost reaching the coasts of Southeast Asian nations based on historical rights. It vaguely defined this area with a map of nine dashes. The tribunal ruled Chinahad no historical rights and its nine-dash map had no legal basis. All those nations, not just the Philippines, can now argue in legal or diplomatic settings thatChina has no rights to their coastal waters.

Any other losers?

Taiwan. Its claims to most of the sea are very similar to China's, and are based on the same old maps. Taiwan also occupies the biggest land feature in the Spratlys archipelago, Itu Aba -- also known as Taiping. President Tsai Ing-wen sent a warship to Taiping on Wednesday to "defend Taiwan's maritime territory".

Can we expect a greater U.S. military presence in thesea?

Yes. The United States is not a claimant but it has in recent years been sending warships and military aircraft to the disputed waters in a show of force that has angered China. The ruling will embolden the U.S., providing it with legal justification for a military presence it says is needed to ensure "freedom of navigation" in the sea.

Will the decision help end ASEAN infighting on the dispute?

Probably not. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian nations, which includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei, have for more than a decade sought to broker an agreement with China to resolve the competing claims. But ASEAN unity has crumbled with member nations Cambodia and Laos supporting China. The East Sea will once again be a top agenda item when ASEAN holds meetings of foreign ministers and leaders in Laos this year. But don't expect a united ASEAN stance against China.

Are there any other wider implications?

Yes. In an unrelated territorial row, Japan says it has exclusive economic rights in the Philippine Sea based on a small atoll it administers there called Okinotori-shima. China, South Korea and Taiwan dispute this. Tuesday's ruling did not address this issue. But its pronouncement that similar small features in the South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea) did not generate exclusive economic zones has led to concerns in Tokyo of legal action.

Related news:

Hague tribunal overwhelmingly rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims

Hague arbitration court to rule in the nine-dash line case on July 12

Taiwan sends warship to South China Sea after ruling

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