Arbitration Panel to Rule July 12 in South China Sea Dispute

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -

The Permanent Court of Arbitration said Wednesday it will deliver an eagerly awaited ruling on July 12 in a case filed by the Philippines contesting Beijing’s sweeping claims to most of the South China Sea.

Beijing has rejected the international arbitration and says it will ignore the panel’s decision.

In an unusual move, the court announced the date of the ruling ahead of time, saying it will be sent to the countries involved July 12 and published the same day.

Outgoing Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said his government decided to bring China to international arbitration in January 2013 after China took effective control of a disputed shoal and later reneged on a U.S.-brokered arrangement for Manila and Beijing to simultaneously withdraw their ships from the fishing area.

Aquino’s successor, Rodrigo Duterte, has called on China to comply with the tribunal’s ruling but said he is ready to hold talks with the Chinese government if it ignores the decision.

Duterte, who is to be sworn in as president on Thursday, has shown readiness to mend frosty ties with China.

Six governments have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea – China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. In addition, China’s broadly drawn nine-dash line, which demarcates its ambitions for maritime boundaries, overlaps waters nearly 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) from the Chinese mainland that are part of Indonesia’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone.

Washington takes no sides in the competing claims in the South China Sea, a crucial waterway for trade, but has declared it is in the U.S. national interest for the disputes to be peacefully resolved and that freedom of navigation and overflight should not be impeded.