UN Set for South China Sea Challenge

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A United Nations tribunal is to begin the debate whether it can hear a legal challenge over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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In 2013, Philippines had submitted a pleading to Permanent Court of Arbitration to invalidate the China’s maritime over contested waters in the South China Sea.  According to Philippines, the so called China’s “nine-dash line”, which China uses to demarcate its territorial claims, is unlawful under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It has accused China of using assertive means to wield its claims and has rejected Beijing’s map of the waters as a basis for joint development.

The Philippines has had diplomatic squabbles with China over the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys in particular.  At the same time, countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia also have overlapping claims in the 3.5 million-sq-km (1.4 million-sq-mile) area which is believed to be strategic and rich in resources.

Philippines has accused China of encroachment in its territory and many Asian neighbors are infuriated at China’s role in this state of affairs.  China has retorted by citing that the tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to hear the challenge and if the tribunal decides to take the call on case, it would go in for legal hearings.

Philippines has sent a high-profile legal team to the proceedings undertaken by the five-member tribunal.  China is not a part of arbitration which will continue till 13 July.

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