A Taiwanese group has intervened in the Philippines’ international court case against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, arguing that Taiwan is entitled to a swathe of the disputed waterway as an economic zone.
The submission came as judges at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague are poised to rule on the Philippines’ landmark case, brought under the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Reuters reported.
The move could delay the judges’ ruling, now expected within two months, and potentially complicates worsening territorial disputes roiling across the vital trade route, the report noted.
Last month, the judges allowed written evidence from the government-linked Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law, even though Taiwan is neither a member of the United Nations, nor a signatory to UNCLOS, legal and diplomatic sources told Reuters.
As well as reviewing several hundred pages of evidence from Taiwan, the judges have also sought further information from the Philippines and China, sources were quoted as saying.
Manila is challenging the legality of China’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, in part by arguing that no reefs, atolls or islets in the Spratly archipelago can legally be considered an island, and therefore holds no rights to an 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Taiwan’s single holding of Itu Aba is the biggest feature in the Spratlys and the one some analysts believe has the strongest claim to island status and an economic zone.
The Spratlys are also claimed by China, Vietnam and Malaysia while Brunei claims nearby waters.
Taiwanese officials have bristled at Philippines’ earlier evidence that Itu Aba is a “rock” that cannot support natural human habitation, so has no claims on either island-status, or an EEZ.
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