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Judgement Day: The South China Sea Tribunal Issues its Ruling

Red Dragon

Red, ornamental dragon, courtesy rumpleteaser/flickr

This issue of the PacNet was published by the Pacific Forum CSIS on 12 July 2016. The article first appeared in the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative Brief

Today an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a long-awaited ruling in Manila’s case against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. The five-judge tribunal was established under the compulsory dispute settlement provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and despite China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings, its ruling is final and legally binding. For a closer look at the tribunal’s ruling and the areas it leaves legally disputed in the South China Sea, visit the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative’s new interactive map.

Q1: What did the tribunal rule?

The judges issued a unanimous decision in favor of the Philippines on the overwhelming majority of the claims it made against China. They invalidated Beijing’s claims to ill-defined historic rights throughout the nine-dash line, finding that any claims it makes in the South China Sea must be made based on maritime entitlements from land features. The tribunal ruled that any other historic rights China might once have claimed in what are now the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) or continental shelves of other countries were invalidated by its ratification of UNCLOS. On the question of specific maritime entitlements over disputed features, the court found that Scarborough Shoal is a rock entitled only to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea. The judges cannot rule on sovereignty over that shoal, but ruled that China has violated the traditional fishing rights of Filipinos by not allowing them to fish at the shoal. Notably the tribunal said it would have found the same regarding Chinese fishermen if they were prevented access to the shoal by the Philippines.

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China’s Fishing Militia Is a Military Force in All But Name: It’s Time to Unmask Beijing’s Third Navy

Painting of a dead fish

Courtesy of Frédéric Glorieux/flickr

This article was originally published by War is Boring on 9 July 2016.

As the South China Sea heats up, one of Beijing’s most important tools — its Maritime Militia or “Little Blue Men,” roughly equivalent at sea to Putin’s “Little Green Men” on land — offers it major rewards while threatening the United States and other potential opponents with major risks.

When the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague announces its rulings on the Philippines-initiated maritime legal case with China on July 12 — likely rejecting some key bases for excessive Chinese claims in the South China Sea — the Maritime Militia will offer a tempting tool for Beijing to try to teach Manila (and other neighbors) a lesson while frustrating American ability to calm troubled waters.

This major problem with significant strategic implications is crying out for greater attention, and effective response. Accordingly, this article puts China’s Maritime Militia under the spotlight to explain what it is, why it matters and what to do about it.

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To Guarantee Peace in South Sudan, Truth and Reconciliation is the Way Forward

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Courtesy of Surian Soosay/flickr

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review (HIR) on 5 July 2016.

South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, and one of its most troubled. Rich in oil reserves and with vast fertile lands it could—if peace is assured—feed itself and much of Africa. Instead, it has been racked by internal violence. Since its independence from northern Sudan in 2011, a devastating civil war has left tens of thousands dead and up to two million displaced.

There is little doubt both government and rebel forces were guilty of atrocities during that conflict, many of them ethnic crimes. It is because of the nature of these crimes that the international community must be careful about mechanisms for ensuring peace.

History teaches us that the birth pangs of new nations can be extremely painful, and that the likelihood of violent struggle over divisions of race can be high. Many newly independent nations have subsequently fallen into internal strife. It took the United States 200 years to reduce discrimination in the law, and the country descended into a civil war in the process. Less than a hundred years ago, southern Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom after an internal armed conflict surrounding differences of religion and a desire for self-government.

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Investigating the use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Gassed

John Singer Sargent’s 1918 painting of gassed British soldiers

This article was originally published by the Stimson Center on 28 June 2016.

Investigating the use of chemical weapons

The first inquiry into the use of chemical weapons (CW) in Syria was the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism (SGM) for Investigation of Alleged use of Chemical and Biological Weapons. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1987, and endorsed by the Security Council (Resolution 620) a year later, the SGM enables the Secretary-General to carry out investigations in response to any UN Member State reporting possible violations of the 1925 Protocol or other relevant rules of customary international law.

The SGM was trigged in March 2013 after Syria (a State Party to the Geneva Protocol) reported allegations of CW use in the Khan al-Asal area of the Aleppo Governorate, for which Syria’s government and opposition blamed each other. A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO) was assembled and remained on standby in Cyprus until the terms of reference between the UN and Syria were agreed on. The holdup was a difference of opinion on the scope of the investigation: the UN argued that all credible claims of CW use reported by other Member States should also be investigated while Syria argued that only the March 19 Khan al-Asal attacks should be examined. In the end, the SGM team was dispatched to Syria in August 2013 to investigate Khal al-Asal and two other incidents at Sheik Maqsood and Saraqueb.[1] Three days after their arrival, allegations of CW use in the Ghouta area of Damascus led the team to prioritise the most recent allegations.

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The Right to Decide: Exit and Basque Self-Determination

Basque Country Needs You

Basque Country Needs You. Credit: Iker Merodio via Flickr

This article was originally published by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) on 28 June 2016.

Five years ago, the Basque militant group ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) announced a unilateral and permanent cessation of operations. Since then, the disappearance of political violence has given rise to a new debate on Basque nationhood: more inclusive, more open, more civic, and at the same time stronger in its affirmation of the legitimacy of popular sovereignty and the democratic demand to exercise ‘the right to decide’, as against the earlier radicalism of immediate independence.

A new book edited by Pedro Ibarra Güell and Åshild Kolås, Basque Nationhood Towards a Democratic Scenario, takes stock of the contemporary re-imagining of Basque nationhood in both Spain and France. Taking a fresh look at the history of Basque nationalist movements, it explores new debates that have emerged since the demise of non-state militancy. Alongside analysis of local transformations, the book also describes the impacts of a pan-European (if not global) rethinking of self-determination, or ‘the right to decide’.

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