Tribunal rules against China's claim to South China Sea 'islands'

Guardian:
China has lost a key international legal case over strategic reefs and atolls that it claims would give it control over disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The judgment by an international tribunal in The Hague is overwhelmingly in favour of claims by the Philippines and will increase global diplomatic pressure on Beijing to scale back military expansion in the sensitive area.

By depriving certain outcrops – some of which are exposed only at low tide – of territorial-generating status, the ruling effectively punches holes in China’s all-encompassing “nine-dash” demarcation line that stretches deep into the South China Sea. It declares large areas of the sea to be neutral international waters.

The findings by the Hague tribunal contain a series of criticisms of China’s actions and claims. The court declares that “although Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other states, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.

“The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

China reacted angrily to the verdict. Xinhua, the country’s official news agency, hit out at what it described as an “ill-founded” ruling that was “naturally null and void”.
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While the islands may have some value for Chinese trolls trying to deny use of the area, they are not a sound defensive policy.  In the case of a conflict, the 'island' fortifications would be wiped out with one or two missiles.   The Philippines was worried about traditional fishing rights it people have exercised in the area.

China does not appear to be handling the defeat very well, but its belligerence may lead to sanctions.

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