×

Beijing defiant on South China Sea as international court nears judgement on Philippines case

An international court will issue a judgement next month on the Philippines' case against China over disputes in the South China Sea.

But China's made it clear that it will have none of it.

Manila is contesting China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, which the Philippines contends are invalid under international law.

China bases its territorial claim on a so-called "nine-dash line" that it has drawn over most of the resource-rich South China Sea.

Control of the region is valuable because more than $5 trillion worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea each year, and China has been accused of ramping up tensions over control in recent years by building artificial islands on reefs, on which it has added airstrips and other military-style installations.

For now, China's staying defiant.

"With regard to territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China," said foreign affairs spokesman Hong Lei in a lengthy statement on Wednesday after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said it will be releasing its ruling on July 12.

He also said the arbitration tribunal has "no jurisdiction over the case and the relevant subject-matter, and that it should not have heard the case or rendered the award."

"The Philippines' unilateral initiation of arbitration breaches international law," he added.

China, will work in accordance with international laws to resolve South China Sea disputes directly with relevant parties, Hong said.

Should China--as is expected--reject any ruling in favor of the Philippines, it will be just the start of a "long game of international pressure," said Gregory Poling, Southeast Asian fellow at Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

"There is no such thing as an international police force that is going to kick in Beijing's door and make them abide by the ruling," he said.

Although almost all arbitration by The Hague result in countries complying due to the opportunity costs "that come as being seen as an international rogue", the eventual outcome would also depend on whether the Philippines and its allies can rally and maintain public and international support over the years to come, said Poling.

"This is going to be a whack-a-mole game. China will try again-maybe it's a day after the ruling, maybe it's six months from now and the Philippines and U.S. will need to deter them and this will go on and on and on," said Poling.

A protestor holds a placard at a rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Manila's financial district on July 7, 2015, denouncing China's claim to most of the South China Sea including areas claimed by the Philippines. The protest comes as a UN tribunal in the Hague begins a hearing on a Philippine suit challenging China's claim over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Jay Directo | AFP | Getty Images
A protestor holds a placard at a rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Manila's financial district on July 7, 2015, denouncing China's claim to most of the South China Sea including areas claimed by the Philippines. The protest comes as a UN tribunal in the Hague begins a hearing on a Philippine suit challenging China's claim over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

"China believes that over the long run it's inevitably going to win this South China Sea contest (because) the U.S. will be distracted, the Philippines will cut a deal, so it doesn't need to pick a fight. It doesn't need to use force at any given moment; it can always back off and try again."

The stance of new Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte, who took office Thursday, is unclear. During his presidential campaign, he said he would ride a jet ski and plant a Philippine flag on one of the seven man-made islands China had built in the Spratly to dramatise Manila's claim, Reuters reported.

However, he has also called for dialogue, saying in May that he would settle rows over the territory with multilateral talks.

On Monday, Duterte said he won't comment about the dispute until the arbitration court has made its ruling, according to a Reuters report.

On its part, the U.S. regularly exercises its right to "freedom of navigation" by sending naval vessels through the South China Sea, including within 12 nautical miles of islands claimed by China. Beijing has responded by calling these actions "provocations" that risked a military response.

Geopolitical research firm Stratfor's Asia Pacific analyst Rodger Baker told CNBC earlier this month that the Chinese "are very serious about turning the South into their territory" and see their actions as being similar to what the U.S. was doing in the Caribbean over a century ago.

"The Caribbean is the pathway into the Mississippi which is the backbone of the U.S. For China, the South China Sea is the passageway to all of their ports so that is a very critical place. They are playing an 18th, 19th century game in the 21st century, but for them they see this as a matter of security and a necessity, and they now have the capability to push and to enforce this while in the past they didn't," said Baker.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.