An arbitration panel in The Hague, Netherlands, has ruled against China in its long-running dispute between the Philippines over the South China Sea. The Philippines has asked the tribunal to declare China’s claims and actions invalid under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Beijing has refused to join the case, rejecting the tribunal’s jurisdiction, and says it will not accept the decision.
A look at how the dispute has unfolded:
1947 China demarcates its South China Sea territorial claims with a U-shaped line made up of eleven dashes on a map, covering most of the area. The Communist Party, which took over in 1949, removed the Gulf of Tonkin portion in 1953, erasing two of the dashes to make it a nine-dash line.
1994 The 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which the Philippines has taken China to arbitration, goes into effect after 60 countries ratify it. The agreement defines territorial waters, continental shelves and exclusive economic zones. The Philippines joined the convention in 1984, and China in 1996. The U.S. has never ratified it.
1995 China takes control of disputed Mischief Reef, constructing octagonal huts on stilts that Chinese officials say will serve as shelters for fishermen. The Philippines lodges a protest through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
1997 Philippine naval ships prevent Chinese boats from approaching Scarborough Shoal, eliciting a protest from China. The uninhabited reef, known as Huangyan Island in China, is 230 kilometres off the Philippines and about 1,000 kilometres from China. In ensuing years, the Philippines detains Chinese fishermen numerous times for alleged illegal fishing in the area.
2009 China submits its nine-dash line map to the United Nations, stating it “has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters.” The submission came in response to applications by Vietnam and Malaysia for recognition of extended continental shelves, which would give them resource rights. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia protest the Chinese claim.
2011 The Philippines files a diplomatic protest after a chartered ship searching for oil and gas and in Reed Bank near the Spratly Islands complained of being harassed by two Chinese patrol boats, forcing it to change course.
2012 China takes effective control of Scarborough Shoal after a tense standoff between Chinese coast guard ships and a Philippine naval vessel that had stopped a Chinese fishing boat to inspect it.
2013 The Philippines brings its dispute with China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, angering Beijing. A five-member panel of international legal experts is appointed in June to hear the case.
2014 The Philippine government summons China’s top envoy in Manila in February to protest what it said was the firing of a water cannon by a Chinese government vessel to drive away Filipino fishermen from Scarborough Shoal. China ignores the protest and calls its sovereignty there “indisputable.”
China issues a position paper in December arguing that the panel does not have jurisdiction over the case, because it concerns issues of sovereignty and boundary definition, which are not covered by the U.N. convention, and that the Philippines and China had agreed to settle their dispute only through negotiation.
2015 The arbitration panel in The Hague rules in October that it has jurisdiction over at least seven of the 15 claims raised by the Philippines. A hearing on the merits of the claims is held in November. China does not participate.
2016 The Permanent Court of Arbitration announces the arbitration decision will be announced on July 12.