Update 11/7/2023: In light of a statement of support made by Portugal’s Foreign Minister on July 28, 2023, Portugal has been moved from the “Positively Acknowledging Ruling” category to “Supporting Ruling” category.
Update 09/14/2023: In light of the joint statement issued by the United States, Japan, and South Korea on August 18, 2023, South Korea has been moved from the “Positively Acknowledging Ruling” category to “Supporting Ruling” category.
Seven years have passed since the July 2016 South China Sea arbitral ruling was issued. Through 2022, most countries’ positions on the arbitration had remained the same as their initial positions taken in the weeks following the ruling. But in the last year, amid renewed concern for international rules and norms in the wake of the war in Ukraine and with a more active Philippine policy on the South China Sea, numerous countries have voiced their support for the ruling as legally binding.
Post-Arbitration Support Tracker
As of November 2023, we have identified 26 governments that have publicly called for the ruling to be respected, 17 that have issued generally positive statements noting the verdict but have stopped short of calling for the parties to abide by it, and 8 that have publicly rejected it.
Since November 2022, 17 governments have shifted from positively acknowledging the ruling to fully supporting it by issuing statements endorsing the ruling as legally binding. These include France and Italy in November, India in June, and 14 European nations (Portugal, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Romania, Slovakia, Finland, and Sweden) in July. By contrast, only two governments, the United Kingdom and Germany, had shifted in this way during the previous six years.
An interactive map of the July 2016 outcome is available here. How many countries recognize the decision as legally binding on both parties and call for it to be respected will determine its ultimate value, as international pressure is the only enforcement mechanism. Even with these recent endorsements, however, most countries have not taken a position on the arbitral ruling. And none of the Philippines’ Southeast Asian neighbors have formally endorsed it.
AMTI has scoured publicly available, official statements to determine the real positions taken by countries. It is useful to compare this evolving list with the public positions of countries before the ruling.
Pre-Arbitration Support Tracker
Chinese officials and state media before the ruling had trumpeted the number of countries voicing support for Beijing’s position that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction in the case and the ruling was therefore invalid. On the eve of the ruling, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that number had climbed to more than 60, but had not provided a list of the countries or, in most cases, evidence for their support. AMTI identified 65 countries that appeared to be included in China’s list of supporters before the verdict. Of those, 31 had publicly confirmed their support. In contrast, 41 countries had said that the arbitral award would be legally binding and had called on both China and the Philippines to respect it.
Support for China’s position ahead of the ruling was defined as an explicit public statement that 1) the arbitral tribunal lacked jurisdiction or legitimacy; 2) the right of states to choose their own method of dispute resolution should be respected (and therefore compulsory dispute mechanisms such as the tribunal are invalid); or 3) the right of states to exempt certain types of disputes from compulsory settlement as provided for by article 298 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea should be respected (which China claims invalidates the arbitral proceedings because they actually touched upon boundary delimitation, from which it has exempted itself).
AMTI will endeavor to keep this list constantly updated. If you believe we have overlooked or misinterpreted the statements of any countries, please email AMTI@csis.org.