On July 12, a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued its long-awaited ruling on Manila’s case against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. An interactive map of the 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 court’s only enforcement mechanism. AMTI has scoured publicly available, official statements in an effort to determine the real positions taken by countries. Since the ruling was issued, we have identified 7 countries that have publicly called for it to be respected, 33 that have issued generally positive statements noting the verdict but have stopped short of calling for the parties to abide by it, 9 that have made overly vague or neutral statements about the South China Sea without addressing the ruling, and 5 that have publicly rejected it. It is useful to compare this evolving list with the public positions of countries before the ruling.
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, 4 had denied Beijing’s claim of support, and 26 had remained publicly silent or have issued statements that are considerably vaguer than indicated by China. In contrast, 40 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.