KUALA LUMPUR: China has no historical claim to the South China Sea, as it gave up that right when it became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), according to a Philippine Supreme Court judge.
Justice Antonio Carpio said when a country became a signatory to the UNCLOS, it gave up historical claims in exchange for an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), comprising 200 nautical miles from a country’s coastline.
“Even if they were not signatories, there is no historical proof that they have owned most of the areas they are claiming, such as the Scarborough and Spratly Islands.
“In ancient Chinese maps dating back to the Song and Qing dynasties, the southernmost territory of China has always been Hainan Island, with its ancient names being Zhuya, then Qiongya, and thereafter Qiongzhou.
“However, in more recent maps, the border has extended to a line of nine dashes, looping down to about 1,800km south from Hainan Island, almost near Sabah,” he said when delivering a lecture on the South China Sea dispute at the Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium here on Friday.
The event was jointly organised by the Bar Council, Universiti Malaya and the Philippine Embassy.
The Chinese government has staked its claim to 90% of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, an archipelago of 750 islands and reefs near the Philippines.
The Philippine government, in response, presented a series of ancient maps which show that islands such as Scarborough were marked as Philippine territory long before it appeared in Chinese maps.
Carpio is visiting Asean countries to deliver a series of lectures on the dispute. Singapore is his first stop.
“We have filed a maritime dispute over China’s claims with the United Nations, and are waiting for a tribunal to decide on the arbitration case.
“Once the tribunal provides its ruling on the matter, we expect China to abide by it, even if they are not participating in the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague,” said Carpio.
The UN tribunal is expected to provide a ruling on the case late this year or early 2016, but Carpio said that would not end the dispute involving the South China Sea, which is either partially or wholly claimed by the Philippines, China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
“I think world opinion will be on our side and I don’t think any country in the world can for long violate international law especially if there’s a ruling by a competent international tribunal.
“If the Philippines wins its case and China refuses to comply with the ruling, we will petition a United Nations council every year until China complies with the decision,” added Carpio.