Reactions of the Parties on the 7th Anniversary of the South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Award
Photo: PCA.

1. The Philippines:

- Similar to 2022, Philippines Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo delivered a statement commemorating the Award. However, this year’s statement is different from last year’s: (i) it does not assert that the Award is “final”, and (ii) it no longer refers to the Award and UNCLOS as “twin anchors” - instead the Philippines considered the Award as “a beacon” guiding the international community and stated that this country “will continue to translate the positive outcomes of the Award into positive gains”.

- The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (WESCOM - the command in charge of the Spratly Islands) also issued a statement asserting the role of the ruling. In addition, the Philippines launched a microsite on the Award, which is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

2. China:

- Both the Chinese Embassy in Manila and China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson expressed their viewpoint regarding the Award. The Chinese Embassy in Manila reaffirmed China’s position with the ruling; blasted the US as the “mastermind” behind the South China Sea Arbitration and “roped in allies to play up the issue each year”. Meanwhile, in the regular press conference on July 12, in response to questions regarding Philippine and US statements on the anniversary, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin rejected the Award and criticized the US (however, he avoided directly criticizing the Philippines). Mr. Wang also stated that China’s position has won the support of more than 100 countries in the world.

- In addition, the Chinese embassies in Canada and the UK - two countries that have issued their statements on the decision - delivered critical statements. However, the Chinese embassies in the US and Japan have not made similar moves.

3. Vietnam:

- In Southeast Asia, apart from the Philippines, so far only Viet Nam has spoken on the anniversary. In response to a question from the press on July 15, the Spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs clearly stated that “Vietnam’s consistent position is that disputes in the South China Sea among parties concerned must be settled via peaceful means in accordance with international law, particularly the UNCLOS 1982, and on the basis of respect for diplomatic and legal progress, so as to contribute to peace and cooperation in the South China Sea. Viet Nam once again asserted its sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in line with international law, and its legal rights over Vietnamese waters as provided by the UNCLOS 1982”.

4. Non-claimants:

- Japan issued its statements at the highest level (the Minister of Foreign Affairs, which is similar to 2022), followed by the UK (government spokesperson), Canada and the US (foreign ministry spokesperson; in 2022, Canada only issued statements via the embassy, while in 2021 this country had statements at the ministerial level).

- Australia, France and EU countries issued statements through their ambassadors/embassies in the Philippines.

- Despite not delivering official statements, Indian Ambassador in Manila Shambhu Kumaran attended an event commemorating the Award organized by the Stratbase ADRi Institute and reaffirmed India’s position on the ruling, as expressed in the India-Philippines Joint Statement on June 29.


- Except for India’s, this year’s statements from the supporting side retain the main components in last year’s versions, which was affirming the significance of the Award, calling on the parties to comply, or reaffirming countries’ policies on the South China Sea, etc.

- In general, the reactions of the parties are somewhat stronger than on the 6th anniversary last year. In particular, this is the first time that the embassies of EU member states in the Philippines have issued a collective statement commemorating the ruling. This move shows that Europe is increasingly paying attention to the South China Sea in particular and the Indo-Pacific region in general. However, it seems that the EU has not yet found a common voice when the Hungarian Embassy does not participate in delivering the statement with other EU countries.

- It could be seen that the reeactions could be categorized into 3 groups: (i) supporting the Award; (ii) neither explicitly supporting nor opposing the Award; and (iii) vehemently opposing the Award. A remarkable point in China’s response is that this country harshly criticizes the US and even some Western countries that support the award, but it has a softer attitude to the Philippines, which is similar to the policy that China has applied recently.

The article is originally published here

Translated by Minh Ha

Edited by Hoang Do, Viet Ha