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China Has No Historic Rights In South China Sea: Tribunal

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbours

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An international tribunal on Tuesday ruled against China in a bitter row over territorial claims to the South China Sea that is likely to ratchet up regional tensions.

"The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line'," the Permanent Court of Arbitration said in a statement.

China said it "does not accept and does not recognise" the ruling.

State-run Xinhua news agency reported the comments, in a brief dispatch that did not identify a source that follow a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague that China has no historic rights to its claimed "nine-dash line".

The Philippines welcomed the ruling.

"The Philippines welcomes the issuance today... on the arbitration proceedings initiated by the Philippines with regard to the South China Sea," Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters minutes after the court in The Hague released its verdict.

Besides China, control of the South China Sea involves conflicting territorial claims involving Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Japan.

China fired off a barrage of criticism even before the decision by the PCA in The Hague was announced.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbours.

Manila had lodged the suit against Beijing in 2013, saying that after 17 years of negotiations it had exhausted all political and diplomatic avenues.

Beijing waged a months-long campaign to discredit the panel, which it says has no jurisdiction in the multinational dispute, and it refused to take part in the case.

The state-run China Daily topped its front page with a picture of Woody Island in the Paracels, emblazoned: "Arbitration invalid".

English-language headlines on the official Xinhua news agency included: "South China Sea arbitration abuses international law: Chinese scholar", "Permanent Court of Arbitration must avoid being used for political purposes" and "The sea where Chinese fishermen live and die".

Ahead of the decision, new Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had signalled he did not want to antagonise China, saying he would not "taunt or flaunt" a favourable ruling and would seek a "soft landing" with China.

China's claims were first enshrined in a map drawn in the 1940s with a nine-dash line stretching south from China and encircling almost all of the sea, although it says Chinese fishermen have been using it for centuries.

To bolster its position it has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

It has held naval drills between the Paracels and the southern Chinese island of Hainan in recent days.

US naval destroyers have been patrolling near the Chinese-claimed Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands, supported by aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the US-based Navy Times reported.

Chinese state media have said Beijing will not take a "single step back" after the ruling, and President Xi Jinping said earlier this month that China would never compromise on sovereignty, adding: "We are not afraid of trouble."

China had sought diplomatic support around the world, and foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said its latest backers included Angola, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea, showing that "justice and righteousness always have popular support".

"Who is upholding the sanctity of international law and who is breaking international law, I think people are all clear about that," Lu said.

(Agencies)


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