7 December 2014
1. On 22 January 2013, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines presented a note verbale to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Philippines, stating that the Philippines submitted a Notification and Statement of Claim in order to initiate compulsory arbitration proceedings under Article 287 and Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ("Convention") with respect to the dispute with China over "maritime jurisdiction" in the South China Sea. On 19 February 2013, the Chinese Government rejected and returned the Philippines' note verbale together with the attached Notification and Statement of Claim. The Chinese Government has subsequently reiterated that it will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration thus initiated by the Philippines.
2. This Position Paper is intended to demonstrate that the arbitral tribunal established at the request of the Philippines for the present arbitration ("Arbitral Tribunal") does not have jurisdiction over this case. It does not express any position on the substantive issues related to the subject-matter of the arbitration initiated by the Philippines. No acceptance by China is signified in this Position Paper of the views or claims advanced by the Philippines, whether or not they are referred to herein. Nor shall this Position Paper be regarded as China's acceptance of or participation in this arbitration.
3. This Position Paper will elaborate on the following positions:
● The essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration is the territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the Convention and does not concern the interpretation or application of the Convention;
● China and the Philippines have agreed, through bilateral instruments and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, to settle their relevant disputes through negotiations. By unilaterally initiating the present arbitration, the Philippines has breached its obligation under international law;
● Even assuming, arguendo, that the subject-matter of the arbitration were concerned with the interpretation or application of the Convention, that subject-matter would constitute an integral part of maritime delimitation between the two countries, thus falling within the scope of the declaration filed by China in 2006 in accordance with the Convention, which excludes, inter alia, disputes concerning maritime delimitation from compulsory arbitration and other compulsory dispute settlement procedures;
● Consequently, the Arbitral Tribunal manifestly has no jurisdiction over the present arbitration. Based on the foregoing positions and by virtue of the freedom of every State to choose the means of dispute settlement, China's rejection of and non-participation in the present arbitration stand on solid ground in international law.
II. The essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration is the territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which does not concern the interpretation or application of the Convention
4. China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands (the Dongsha Islands, the Xisha Islands, the Zhongsha Islands and the Nansha Islands) and the adjacent waters. Chinese activities in the South China Sea date back to over 2,000 years ago. China was the first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea Islands and the first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them. From the 1930s to 1940s, Japan illegally seized some parts of the South China Sea Islands during its war of aggression against China. At the end of the Second World War, the Chinese Government resumed exercise of sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands. Military personnel and government officials were sent via naval vessels to hold resumption of authority ceremonies. Commemorative stone markers were erected, garrisons stationed, and geographical surveys conducted. In 1947, China renamed the maritime features of the South China Sea Islands and, in 1948, published an official map which displayed a dotted line in the South China Sea. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949, the Chinese Government has been consistently and actively maintaining its sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands. Both the Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea of 1958 and the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of 1992 expressly provide that the territory of the People's Republic of China includes, among others, the Dongsha Islands, the Xisha Islands, the Zhongsha Islands and the Nansha Islands. All those acts affirm China's territorial sovereignty and relevant maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.
5. Prior to the 1970s, Philippine law had set clear limits for the territory of the Philippines, which did not involve any of China's maritime features in the South China Sea. Article 1 of the 1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, entitled "The National Territory", provided that "The Philippines comprises all the territory ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris concluded between the United States and Spain on the tenth day of December, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, the limits which are set forth in Article III of said treaty, together with all the islands embraced in the treaty concluded at Washington between the United States and Spain on the seventh day of November, nineteen hundred, and the treaty concluded between the United States and Great Britain on the second day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty, and all territory over which the present Government of the Philippine Islands exercises jurisdiction." Under this provision, the territory of the Philippines was confined to the Philippine Islands, having nothing to do with any of China's maritime features in the South China Sea. Philippine Republic Act No. 3046, entitled "An Act to Define the Baselines of the Territorial Sea of the Philippines", which was promulgated in 1961, reaffirmed the territorial scope of the country as laid down in the 1935 Constitution.
6. Since the 1970s, the Philippines has illegally occupied a number of maritime features of China's Nansha Islands, including Mahuan Dao, Feixin Dao, Zhongye Dao, Nanyao Dao, Beizi Dao, Xiyue Dao, Shuanghuang Shazhou and Siling Jiao. Furthermore, it unlawfully designated a so-called "Kalayaan Island Group" to encompass some of the maritime features of China's Nansha Islands and claimed sovereignty over them, together with adjacent but vast maritime areas. Subsequently, it laid unlawful claim to sovereignty over Huangyan Dao of China's Zhongsha Islands. In addition, the Philippines has also illegally explored and exploited the resources on those maritime features and in the adjacent maritime areas.
7. The Philippines' activities mentioned above have violated the Charter of the United Nations and international law, and seriously encroached upon China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. They are null and void in law. The Chinese Government has always been firmly opposed to these actions of the Philippines, and consistently and continuously made solemn representations and protests to the Philippines.
8. The Philippines has summarized its claims for arbitration in three categories:
First, China's assertion of the "historic rights" to the waters, sea-bed and subsoil within the "nine-dash line" (i.e., China's dotted line in the South China Sea) beyond the limits of its entitlements under the Convention is inconsistent with the Convention.
Second, China's claim to entitlements of 200 nautical miles and more, based on certain rocks, low-tide elevations and submerged features in the South China Sea, is inconsistent with the Convention.
Third, China's assertion and exercise of rights in the South China Sea have unlawfully interfered with the sovereign rights, jurisdiction and rights and freedom of navigation that the Philippines enjoys and exercises under the Convention.
9. The subject-matter of the Philippines' claims is in essence one of territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the Convention and does not concern the interpretation or application of the Convention. Consequently, the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction over the claims of the Philippines for arbitration.
10. With regard to the first category of claims presented by the Philippines for arbitration, it is obvious that the core of those claims is that China's maritime claims in the South China Sea have exceeded the extent allowed under the Convention. However, whatever logic is to be followed, only after the extent of China's territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea is determined can a decision be made on whether China's maritime claims in the South China Sea have exceeded the extent allowed under the Convention.
11. It is a general principle of international law that sovereignty over land territory is the basis for the determination of maritime rights. As the International Court of Justice ("ICJ") stated, "maritime rights derive from the coastal State's sovereignty over the land, a principle which can be summarized as 'the land dominates the sea'" (Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain (Qatar v. Bahrain), Merits, Judgment of 16 March 2001, I.C.J. Reports 2001, p. 97, para. 185; cf. also North Sea Continental Shelf (Federal Republic of Germany/Denmark; Federal Republic of Germany/Netherlands), Judgment of 20 February 1969, I.C.J. Reports 1969, p. 51, para. 96; Aegean Sea Continental Shelf (Greece v. Turkey), Jurisdiction of the Court, Judgment of 19 December 1978, I.C.J. Reports 1978, p. 36, para. 86). And, "[i]t is thus the terrestrial territorial situation that must be taken as starting point for the determination of the maritime rights of a coastal State" (Qatar v. Bahrain, I.C.J. Reports 2001, para. 185; Territorial and Maritime Dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Honduras), Judgment of 8 October 2007, I.C.J. Reports 2007, p. 696, para. 113). Recently the ICJ again emphasized that "[t]he title of a State to the continental shelf and to the exclusive economic zone is based on the principle that the land dominates the sea", and that "the land is the legal source of the power which a State may exercise over territorial extensions to seaward" (Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment of 19 November 2012, I.C.J. Reports 2012, p. 51, para. 140).
12. The preamble of the Convention proclaims "the desirability of establishing through this Convention, with due regard for the sovereignty of all States, a legal order for the seas and oceans". It is apparent that "due regard for the sovereignty of all States" is the prerequisite for the application of the Convention to determine maritime rights of the States Parties.
13. As far as the present arbitration is concerned, without first having determined China's territorial sovereignty over the maritime features in the South China Sea, the Arbitral Tribunal will not be in a position to determine the extent to which China may claim maritime rights in the South China Sea pursuant to the Convention, not to mention whether China's claims exceed the extent allowed under the Convention. But the issue of territorial sovereignty falls beyond the purview of the Convention.
14. The Philippines is well aware that a tribunal established under Article 287 and Annex VII of the Convention has no jurisdiction over territorial sovereignty disputes. In an attempt to circumvent this jurisdictional hurdle and fabricate a basis for institution of arbitral proceedings, the Philippines has cunningly packaged its case in the present form. It has repeatedly professed that it does not seek from the Arbitral Tribunal a determination of territorial sovereignty over certain maritime features claimed by both countries, but rather a ruling on the compatibility of China's maritime claims with the provisions of the Convention, so that its claims for arbitration would appear to be concerned with the interpretation or application of the Convention, not with the sovereignty over those maritime features. This contrived packaging, however, fails to conceal the very essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration, namely, the territorial sovereignty over certain maritime features in the South China Sea.
15. With regard to the second category of claims by the Philippines, China believes that the nature and maritime entitlements of certain maritime features in the South China Sea cannot be considered in isolation from the issue of sovereignty.
16. In the first place, without determining the sovereignty over a maritime feature, it is impossible to decide whether maritime claims based on that feature are consistent with the Convention.
17. The holder of the entitlements to an exclusive economic zone ("EEZ") and a continental shelf under the Convention is the coastal State with sovereignty over relevant land territory. When not subject to State sovereignty, a maritime feature per se possesses no maritime rights or entitlements whatsoever. In other words, only the State having sovereignty over a maritime feature is entitled under the Convention to claim any maritime rights based on that feature. Only after a State's sovereignty over a maritime feature has been determined and the State has made maritime claims in respect thereof, could there arise a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention, if another State questions the compatibility of those claims with the Convention or makes overlapping claims. If the sovereignty over a maritime feature is undecided, there cannot be a concrete and real dispute for arbitration as to whether or not the maritime claims of a State based on such a feature are compatible with the Convention.
18. In the present case, the Philippines denies China's sovereignty over the maritime features in question, with a view to completely disqualifying China from making any maritime claims in respect of those features. In light of this, the Philippines is putting the cart before the horse by requesting the Arbitral Tribunal to determine, even before the matter of sovereignty is dealt with, the issue of compatibility of China's maritime claims with the Convention. In relevant cases, no international judicial or arbitral body has ever applied the Convention to determine the maritime rights derived from a maritime feature before sovereignty over that feature is decided.
19. Secondly, in respect of the Nansha Islands, the Philippines selects only a few features and requests the Arbitral Tribunal to decide on their maritime entitlements. This is in essence an attempt at denying China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands as a whole.
20. The Nansha Islands comprises many maritime features. China has always enjoyed sovereignty over the Nansha Islands in its entirety, not just over some features thereof. In 1935, the Commission of the Chinese Government for the Review of Maps of Land and Waters published the Map of Islands in the South China Sea. In 1948, the Chinese Government published the Map of the Location of the South China Sea Islands. Both maps placed under China's sovereignty what are now known as the Nansha Islands as well as the Dongsha Islands, the Xisha Islands and the Zhongsha Islands. The Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea of 1958 declared that the territory of the People's Republic of China includes, inter alia, the Nansha Islands. In 1983, the National Toponymy Commission of China published standard names for some of the South China Sea Islands, including those of the Nansha Islands. The Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of 1992 again expressly provides that the Nansha Islands constitutes a part of the land territory of the People's Republic of China.
21. In Note Verbale No. CML/8/2011 of 14 April 2011 addressed to Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations stated that "under the relevant provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone (1992) and the Law on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf of the People's Republic of China (1998), China's Nansha Islands is fully entitled to Territorial Sea, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf." It is plain that, in order to determine China's maritime entitlements based on the Nansha Islands under the Convention, all maritime features comprising the Nansha Islands must be taken into account.
22. The Philippines, by requesting the Arbitral Tribunal to determine the maritime entitlements of only what it describes as the maritime features "occupied or controlled by China", has in effect dissected the Nansha Islands. It deliberately makes no mention of the rest of the Nansha Islands, including those illegally seized or claimed by the Philippines. Its real intention is to gainsay China's sovereignty over the whole of the Nansha Islands, deny the fact of its illegal seizure of or claim on several maritime features of the Nansha Islands, and distort the nature and scope of the China-Philippines disputes in the South China Sea. In addition, the Philippines has deliberately excluded from the category of the maritime features "occupied or controlled by China" the largest island in the Nansha Islands, Taiping Dao, which is currently controlled by the Taiwan authorities of China. This is a grave violation of the One-China Principle and an infringement of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This further shows that the second category of claims brought by the Philippines essentially pertains to the territorial sovereignty dispute between the two countries.
23. Finally, whether or not low-tide elevations can be appropriated is plainly a question of territorial sovereignty.
24. The Philippines asserts that some of the maritime features, about which it has submitted claims for arbitration, are low-tide elevations, thus being incapable of appropriation as territory. As to whether those features are indeed low-tide elevations, this Position Paper will not comment. It should, however, be pointed out that, whatever nature those features possess, the Philippines itself has persisted in claiming sovereignty over them since the 1970s. By Presidential Decree No. 1596, promulgated on 11 June 1978, the Philippines made known its unlawful claim to sovereignty over some maritime features in the Nansha Islands including the aforementioned features, together with the adjacent but vast areas of waters, sea-bed, subsoil, continental margin and superjacent airspace, and constituted the vast area as a new municipality of the province of Palawan, entitled "Kalayaan". Notwithstanding that Philippine Republic Act No. 9522 of 10 March 2009 stipulates that the maritime zones for the so-called "Kalayaan Island Group" (i.e., some maritime features of China's Nansha Islands) and "Scarborough Shoal" (i.e., China's Huangyan Dao) be determined in a way consistent with Article 121 of the Convention (i.e., the regime of islands), this provision was designed to adjust the Philippines' maritime claims based on those features within the aforementioned area. The Act did not vary the territorial claim of the Philippines to the relevant maritime features, including those it alleged in this arbitration as low-tide elevations. In Note Verbale No. 000228, addressed to Secretary-General of the United Nations on 5 April 2011, the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations stated that, "the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) constitutes an integral part of the Philippines. The Republic of the Philippines has sovereignty and jurisdiction over the geological features in the KIG." The Philippines has maintained, to date, its claim to sovereignty over 40 maritime features in the Nansha Islands, among which are the very features it now labels as low-tide elevations. It is thus obvious that the only motive behind the Philippines' assertion that low-tide elevations cannot be appropriated is to deny China's sovereignty over these features so as to place them under Philippine sovereignty.
25. Whether low-tide elevations can be appropriated as territory is in itself a question of territorial sovereignty, not a matter concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention. The Convention is silent on this issue of appropriation. In its 2001 Judgment in Qatar v. Bahrain, the ICJ explicitly stated that, "International treaty law is silent on the question whether low-tide elevations can be considered to be 'territory'. Nor is the Court aware of a uniform and widespread State practice which might have given rise to a customary rule which unequivocally permits or excludes appropriation of low-tide elevations" (Qatar v. Bahrain, I.C.J. Reports 2001, pp. 101-102, para. 205). "International treaty law" plainly includes the Convention, which entered into force in 1994. In its 2012 Judgment in Nicaragua v. Colombia, while the ICJ stated that "low-tide elevations cannot be appropriated" (Nicaragua v. Colombia, I.C.J. Reports 2012, p. 641, para. 26), it did not point to any legal basis for this conclusory statement. Nor did it touch upon the legal status of low-tide elevations as components of an archipelago, or sovereignty or claims of sovereignty that may have long existed over such features in a particular maritime area. On all accounts, the ICJ did not apply the Convention in that case. Whether or not low-tide elevations can be appropriated is not a question concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention.
26. As to the third category of the Philippines' claims, China maintains that the legality of China's actions in the waters of the Nansha Islands and Huangyan Dao rests on both its sovereignty over relevant maritime features and the maritime rights derived therefrom.
27. The Philippines alleges that China's claim to and exercise of maritime rights in the South China Sea have unlawfully interfered with the sovereign rights, jurisdiction and rights and freedom of navigation, which the Philippines is entitled to enjoy and exercise under the Convention. The premise for this claim must be that the spatial extent of the Philippines' maritime jurisdiction is defined and undisputed, and that China's actions have encroached upon such defined areas. The fact is, however, to the contrary. China and the Philippines have not delimited the maritime space between them. Until and unless the sovereignty over the relevant maritime features is ascertained and maritime delimitation completed, this category of claims of the Philippines cannot be decided upon.
28. It should be particularly emphasized that China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all States in the South China Sea in accordance with international law.
29. To sum up, by requesting the Arbitral Tribunal to apply the Convention to determine the extent of China's maritime rights in the South China Sea, without first having ascertained sovereignty over the relevant maritime features, and by formulating a series of claims for arbitration to that effect, the Philippines contravenes the general principles of international law and international jurisprudence on the settlement of international maritime disputes. To decide upon any of the Philippines' claims, the Arbitral Tribunal would inevitably have to determine, directly or indirectly, the sovereignty over both the maritime features in question and other maritime features in the South China Sea. Besides, such a decision would unavoidably produce, in practical terms, the effect of a maritime delimitation, which will be further discussed below in Part IV of this Position Paper. Therefore, China maintains that the Arbitral Tribunal manifestly has no jurisdiction over the present case.
III. There exists an agreement between China and the Philippines to settle their disputes in the South China Sea through negotiations, and the Philippines is debarred from unilaterally initiating compulsory arbitration
30. With regard to disputes concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, China has always maintained that they should be peacefully resolved through negotiations between the countries directly concerned. In the present case, there has been a long-standing agreement between China and the Philippines on resolving their disputes in the South China Sea through friendly consultations and negotiations.
31. Under the Joint Statement between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippines concerning Consultations on the South China Sea and on Other Areas of Cooperation, issued on 10 August 1995, both sides "agreed to abide by" the principles that "[d]isputes shall be settled in a peaceful and friendly manner through consultations on the basis of equality and mutual respect" (Point 1); that "a gradual and progressive process of cooperation shall be adopted with a view to eventually negotiating a settlement of the bilateral disputes" (Point 3); and that "[d]isputes shall be settled by the countries directly concerned without prejudice to the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea" (Point 8).
32. The Joint Statement of the China-Philippines Experts Group Meeting on Confidence-Building Measures, issued on 23 March 1999, states that the two sides reiterated their commitment to "[t]he understanding to continue to work for a settlement of their difference through friendly consultations" (para. 5), and that "the two sides believe that the channels of consultations between China and the Philippines are unobstructed. They have agreed that the dispute should be peacefully settled through consultation" (para. 12).
33. The Joint Statement between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines on the Framework of Bilateral Cooperation in the Twenty-First Century, issued on 16 May 2000, states in Point 9 that, "The two sides commit themselves to the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea. They agree to promote a peaceful settlement of disputes through bilateral friendly consultations and negotiations in accordance with universally-recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. They reaffirm their adherence to the 1995 joint statement between the two countries on the South China Sea ..."
34. The Joint Press Statement of the Third China-Philippines Experts' Group Meeting on Confidence-Building Measures, dated 4 April 2001, states in Point 4 that, "The two sides noted that the bilateral consultation mechanism to explore ways of cooperation in the South China Sea has been effective. The series of understanding and consensus reached by the two sides have played a constructive role in the maintenance of the sound development of China-Philippines relations and peace and stability of the South China Sea area."
35. The mutual understanding between China and the Philippines to settle relevant disputes through negotiations has been reaffirmed in a multilateral instrument. On 4 November 2002, Mr. Wang Yi, the then Vice Foreign Minister and representative of the Chinese Government, together with the representatives of the governments of the member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ("ASEAN"), including the Philippines, jointly signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea ("DOC"). Paragraph 4 of the DOC explicitly states that, "The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means... through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea."
36. Following the signing of the DOC, the leaders of China and the Philippines have repeatedly reiterated their commitment to the settlement of disputes by way of dialogue. Thus, a Joint Press Statement between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines was issued on 3 September 2004 during the State visit to China by the then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which states in paragraph 16 that, "They agreed that the early and vigorous implementation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea will pave the way for the transformation of the South China Sea into an area of cooperation."
37. Between 30 August and 3 September 2011, President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines paid a State visit to China. On 1 September 2011, the two sides issued a Joint Statement between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippines, which, in paragraph 15, "reiterated their commitment to addressing the disputes through peaceful dialogue" and "reaffirmed their commitments to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN member countries in 2002". The Joint Statement, consequently, reaffirmed Paragraph 4 of the DOC relating to settlement of relevant disputes by negotiations.
38. The bilateral instruments between China and the Philippines repeatedly employ the term "agree" when referring to settlement of their disputes through negotiations. This evinces a clear intention to establish an obligation between the two countries in this regard. Paragraph 4 of the DOC employs the term "undertake", which is also frequently used in international agreements to commit the parties to their obligations. As the ICJ observed in its Judgment in Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, "[t]he ordinary meaning of the word 'undertake' is to give a formal promise, to bind or engage oneself, to give a pledge or promise, to agree, to accept an obligation. It is a word regularly used in treaties setting out the obligations of the Contracting Parties... It is not merely hortatory or purposive" (Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), Judgment of 26 February 2007, I.C.J. Reports 2007, p. 111, para. 162). Furthermore, under international law, regardless of the designation or form the above-mentioned instruments employ, as long as they intend to create rights and obligations for the parties, these rights and obligations are binding between the parties (Cf. Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain (Qatar v. Bahrain), Jurisdiction and Admissibility, Judgment of 1 July 1994, I.C.J. Reports 1994, pp. 120-121, paras. 22-26; Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equitorial Guinea intervening), Judgment of 10 October 2002, I.C.J. Reports 2002, pp. 427, 429, paras. 258, 262-263).
39. The relevant provisions in the aforementioned bilateral instruments and the DOC are mutually reinforcing and form an agreement between China and the Philippines. On that basis, they have undertaken a mutual obligation to settle their relevant disputes through negotiations.
40. By repeatedly reaffirming negotiations as the means for settling relevant disputes, and by emphasizing that negotiations be conducted by sovereign States directly concerned, the above-quoted provisions of the bilateral instruments and Paragraph 4 of the DOC obviously have produced the effect of excluding any means of third-party settlement. In particular, the above-mentioned Joint Statement between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippines concerning Consultations on the South China Sea and on Other Areas of Cooperation of 10 August 1995 stipulates in Point 3 that "a gradual and progressive process of cooperation shall be adopted with a view to eventually negotiating a settlement of the bilateral disputes". The term "eventually" in this context clearly serves to emphasize that "negotiations" is the only means the parties have chosen for dispute settlement, to the exclusion of any other means including third-party settlement procedures. Although the above-mentioned bilateral instruments and Paragraph 4 of the DOC do not use such an express phrase as "exclude other procedures of dispute settlement", as the arbitral tribunal in the Southern Bluefin Tuna Case stated in its Award, "the absence of an express exclusion of any procedure ... is not decisive" (Australia and New Zealand v. Japan, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, 4 August 2000, p.97, para. 57). As discussed earlier, in respect of disputes relating to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, China always insists on peaceful settlement of disputes by means of negotiations between the countries directly concerned. China's position on negotiations was made clear and well known to the Philippines and other relevant parties during the drafting and adoption of the aforementioned bilateral instruments and the DOC.
41. Consequently, with regard to all the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, including the Philippines' claims in this arbitration, the only means of settlement as agreed by the two sides is negotiations, to the exclusion of any other means.
42. Even supposing that the Philippines' claims were concerned with the interpretation or application of the Convention, the compulsory procedures laid down in section 2 of Part XV of the Convention still could not be applied, given the agreement between China and the Philippines on settling their relevant disputes through negotiations.
43. Article 280 of the Convention states that, "Nothing in this Part impairs the right of any States Parties to agree at any time to settle a dispute between them concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention by any peaceful means of their own choice." Article 281 (1) provides that, "If the States Parties which are parties to a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention have agreed to seek settlement of the dispute by a peaceful means of their own choice, the procedures provided for in this Part apply only where no settlement has been reached by recourse to such means and the agreement between the parties does not exclude any further procedure."
44. As analysed above, through bilateral and multilateral instruments, China and the Philippines have agreed to settle their relevant disputes by negotiations, without setting any time limit for the negotiations, and have excluded any other means of settlement. In these circumstances, it is evident that, under the above-quoted provisions of the Convention, the relevant disputes between the two States shall be resolved through negotiations and there shall be no recourse to arbitration or other compulsory procedures.
45. The Philippines claims that, the two countries have been involved in exchanges of views since 1995 with regard to the subject-matter of the Philippines' claims for arbitration, without however reaching settlement, and that in its view, the Philippines is justified in believing that it is meaningless to continue the negotiations, and therefore the Philippines has the right to initiate arbitration. But the truth is that the two countries have never engaged in negotiations with regard to the subject-matter of the arbitration.
46. Under international law, general exchanges of views, without having the purpose of settling a given dispute, do not constitute negotiations. In Georgia v. Russian Federation, the ICJ held that, "Negotiations entail more than the plain opposition of legal views or interests between two parties, or the existence of a series of accusations and rebuttals, or even the exchange of claims and directly opposed counter-claims. As such, the concept of 'negotiations' … requires - at the very least - a genuine attempt by one of the disputing parties to engage in discussions with the other disputing party, with a view to resolving the dispute" (Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v. Russian Federation), Preliminary Objections, Judgment of 1 April 2011, I.C.J. Reports 2011, p. 132, para. 157). In addition, the ICJ considered that "the subject-matter of the negotiations must relate to the subject-matter of the dispute which, in turn, must concern the substantive obligations contained in the treaty in question" (Ibid., p. 133, para. 161).
47. The South China Sea issue involves a number of countries, and it is no easy task to solve it. Up to the present, the countries concerned are still working together to create conditions conducive to its final settlement by negotiations. Against this background, the exchanges of views between China and the Philippines in relation to their disputes have so far pertained to respondi