South China Sea Arbitration Tribunal Ruling: Taiwan Civil Government Stance

Since the end of World War II, the South China Sea has been an area of dispute and turmoil.  Several nations in the area, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and others, have claimed sovereignty of these islands. 

In 2013, the Philippines officially filed a suit with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, claiming certain areas in the South China Sea as part of its exclusive economic zone.  This claim challenged China’s claim of sovereignty, and China’s recent expansionary actions in this area. 

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines, and against China’s expansion in the South China Sea.  As a result, China immediately issued a statement, declaring “the ruling is null and void and has no binding force.  China neither accepts nor recognizes it.”  Since then, China has continued to assertively and unilaterally state that they will not accept, participate in, or recognize any such ruling.    

The Taiwan Civil Government supports the tribunal’s ruling denying China’s sovereignty and this ruling should be regarded legally binding. The ruling is thus meaningful and should be one of the common goals and serve the purpose of solving conflicts and disputes in the South China Sea.   

The Taiwan Civil Government’s stance is based on history.  The historical sources and origins between Taiwan and those islands in the South China Sea are as follows:

  1. On March 30, 1939 Japan arranged for the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands to be part of Kaohsiung and thus governed by the Taiwan Governor. 
  2. On April 18, 1939, the Japanese Official Report No. 3683 (page 720) stated that “the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands have now been combined as the Shinnan Islands. They are now part of Kaohsiung and governed by the Taiwan Governor.”
  3. Since April 1, 1945, the Japanese Empire Constitution has remained valid for the whole of Taiwan, including the Shinnan Islands.  This therefore extends the Shinnan Islands as part of the territory of Japan. 
  4. On April 28, 1952, according to Clause 2(f) in the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan renounced all right, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.  The Japanese government thus gave up all its rights and claims to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands. According to these terms and clauses, the Japanese government is not allowed to rule Taiwan, but in the treaty there is no regulation or restriction that the governor appointed by the emperor of Japan himself is not allowed to rule the Shinnan Islands.

Taiwan Civil Government hereby determines that any historic rights to resources that China may have had were invalid. Taiwan Civil Government supports the Charter of the United Nations and The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

Interestingly, and for the first time ever in any court ruling, the Hague used the term “Taiwan Authority of China” to refer to one of the claimant countries.  This is the first time such a specific term has been used.  By using this specific term, the Court has declared that Taiwan’s current ruling body is not serving as a government of a sovereign nation.  Prior to this, the term Taiwan has been used ambiguously.  On the other hand, according to the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the United States is the principal occupying power over Taiwan, and the Taiwan Civil Government should specifically serve as the legal government over Taiwan according to the law of war. 

This ruling puts the current Tsai government on Taiwan in a very difficult position.  If Tsai continues to insist on fishing or other territorial rights, Tsai would be going directly against the ruling of the Hague.    

The Taiwan Civil Government hereby calls upon all the concerning Southeastern countries involved with territorial disputes to be self-restrained, maintain stability and avoid any further escalation of tensions in the region, by abiding by The Charter of the United Nations and The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The Taiwan Civil Government encourages all the concerning countries to discuss and negotiate with one another to advance peace and stability, and to protect and develop all the resources in the South China Sea.

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台灣民政府 中央會館 Central Government Headquarters
新竹州桃園郡33391龜山鄉員林坑路100-1號  (03) 355-6363
No.100-1 Yuanlinkeng Road, Guishan Township, Taoyuan County Hsinchu state. 33391, Taiwan

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