China has said it will not accept a ruling against it in a key international legal case over strategic reefs and atolls that Beijing claims would give it control over disputed waters of the South China Sea.
The judgment by an international tribunal in The Hague came down overwhelmingly in favour of claims by the Philippines and is likely to increase global diplomatic pressure on Beijing to scale back military expansion in the area. By depriving certain outcrops of territorial-generating status, the ruling from the permanent court of arbitration effectively punches holes in China’s all-encompassing “nine-dash” line that stretches deep into the South China Sea.
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, said China’s “territorial sovereignty and marine rights” in the seas would not be affected by the ruling, which declared large areas of the sea to be neutral international waters or the exclusive economic zones of other countries. He insisted China was still “committed to resolving disputes” with its neighbours.
Chinese state media 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”. The Communist party mouthpiece newspaper the People’s Daily said in an editorial that the tribunal had ignored “basic truths” and “trampled” on international laws and norms.
“The Chinese government and the Chinese people firmly oppose [the ruling] and will neither acknowledge it nor accept it,” it added.
The Philippine foreign affairs secretary, Perfecto Yasay Jr, said the country welcomed the ruling and called for “restraint and sobriety”. The US State Department called on both parties to comply with their obligations, according to a statement from spokesman John Kirby.