China is refocusing its territorial claims in the South China Sea to land resources after an international tribunal rejected its historic rights to disputed waters.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a policy paper describing all land features in the area as its “inherent territory”, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The document accused the Philippines, which brought the case before the arbitral tribunal in The Hague, of illegally occupying some of them.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, who introduced the paper, stepped up a barrage of official Chinese invective against the tribunal, accusing its five arbitrators of being biased, ignorant of Asian culture and working for the Philippine government.
But Liu added that China remains committed to negotiations with the new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, and other governments with competing claims.
Beijing’s pairing of harsh rhetoric with offers of talks suggested that while still determined not to comply with the ruling and sensitive to the demands of a nationalistic public, it was wary of escalating a dispute that has already driven some of its neighbors to forge closer defense ties with the US, according to WSJ.
There was no immediate response to China’s statements Wednesday from Manila or the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The court’s tribunal on Tuesday rejected China’s claim to waters within a nine-dash line that Beijing depicts on maps as extending almost to Malaysian Borneo and to exclusive economic rights around the Spratly Islands.
China has vowed not to comply with the ruling.
However, there were some signs in the new policy paper that China was seeking to clarify its legal claims, possibly to lay the ground for negotiations with the Philippines and other governments.
“The good news is that China is moving towards clarification and reduction of ambiguity,” said Yanmei Xie, senior China analyst at the International Crisis Group.
“The bad news is that clarification could also bring calcification of China’s position.”
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