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South China Sea Deadline Looms as Beijing Slams US in Growing Global Crisis

China is running out of time to resolve its territorial claim through arbitration and has now told the US to mind its own business.
December 10, 2014, 4:37pm
Image via Reuters

China's deadline to accept international arbitration on its claim over the South China Sea is fast approaching. It increasingly appears that the country will go ahead with a territorial grab, regardless of what anyone says, and put the United States on notice on Tuesday to stay out of the dispute.

China has so far refused to engage in any arbitration, saying the United Nation's Permanent Court for Arbitration in The Hague has no jurisdiction over its claim.

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Instead, in the last month China has transformed several coral reefs into military islands in the disputed South China Sea, increasing its ability to project force over the claimed territory.

"This is a worrying development. It means China is simply turning to illegal means to assert claims over this territory that it doesn't control," Dr. Malcolm Davis, assistant professor at Australia's Bond University, told VICE News.

The Permanent Court for Arbitration has set a December 15 deadline for China to participate in the arbitration process that was called by the Philippines.

China has shown no sign that it will present a case for its claim over the region that stretches 1,000 miles from its shores and into waters claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Instead, as the deadline nears, the diplomatic battle has grown into a global issue.

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On Tuesday, Hong Lei, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, used the strongest language yet against the United States over the case.

"The United States has violated its commitment of not holding a position and not taking sides in the South China Sea issue, such a move is inconducive to the resolution of the South China Sea disputes and the peace and stability of the South China Sea," he said, according to state press agency Xinhua.

The US State Department began the war of words on Friday when it published a damning assessment of China's case.

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"There appears to be no Chinese law, declaration, proclamation, or other official statement describing and putting the international community on notice of a historical claim to the waters within the dashed line," concluded the report.

Even the various maps China has published "lack the precision, clarity and consistency that could convey the nature and scope of a maritime claim," according to the State Department.

The South China Sea dispute, one that does not directly involve the US, has nevertheless been the source of some very heated rhetoric between Chinese and US officials.

Davis believes that's justifiable. "The issue for the US is freedom of navigation on the high seas. If the US allows China to stake out control over international waters and impede the freedom of navigation in the region, then it opens the doors for China making similar claims [elsewhere], or other countries making similar claims," Davis explained. "For the US that could cut out operational movement, in passing through those areas, so the US is quite right to get involved and make sure that doesn't happen."

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