Written by RT News

Since 2015, the South China Sea crisis and territorial controversies have escalated due to the increase in expansionist behaviours by multiple Western and Asian countries such as the United States, China, Japan, and Vietnam. Tensions regarding the claims and occupations of the contested islands in the South China Sea between multiple nations have been front and centre and thus a matter and topic of crucial significance.

Domination of the previously uninhabited islands in the South China Sea area and raising conflicts between nations directly challenged global peace and security, which made it more difficult for the United Nations Security Council to maintain its peacekeeping structure within the international community. 

The South China Sea is a body of water that represents one-third of global maritime traffic and $5 trillion in annual trade with the vast wealth of natural resources such as fisheries, oil and gas deposits, and islands within the region according to the South China Morning Post.

According to multiple RT news reports from last month, The People’s Republic of China is preparing to reject the anticipated adverse judgment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea. The Philippines accused China of illegally exploiting resources in the areas beyond the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) limits and forcibly preventing other nearby states like the Philippines from taking advantages of the resources in the same areas.

If the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) calls for China to abandon its nine-dash line claims and China opposes to this finding, what options would then be available to the international community? How would UNSC respond to the increasing tensions in the region?

Unlike the International Court of Justice (ICJ), PCA does not have the equivalent of article 94 in the UN Charter which ominously states that:  

If any party to a case fails to perform the obligations incumbent upon it under a judgment rendered by the Court, the other party may have recourse to the Security Council, which may, if it deems necessary, make recommendations or decide upon measures to be taken to give effect to the judgment. 

Nevertheless, ignoring a finding of the PCA would still be significant, as it would amount to neglecting international law. As such, since the start of committee sessions on April 4th, members of the UN Security Council have been engaging in negotiations and creating a possible resolution on the matter.

The delegation of Russia argues that the UNSC should “be considerate of the Chinese claiming of certain islands and their territorial histories in the South China Sea” by allowing fair international hearings as a response to the Chinese aggression in the region.

“We firmly respect the territorial sovereignty of our comrade China in the South China Sea and we ask other western countries to do the same,” he added.

It is possible that a rejection of the PCA finding is considered as highly damaging to the credibility of UNCLOS as well as its successful negotiation entailed. Thus, more tensions resulted from territorial disputes in the South China Sea regions can lead to further international friction, and hence within the UN Security Council’s mandate.

While it is inevitable that the United States, and perhaps also Russia and China, would seek to prevent the UNSC from discussing the issue, what would be the likely position of the other countries represented in the United Nations Security Council?

According to the RT news reports, many of the non-permanent members strongly support a UN security council discussion of the case. Japan is speaking the language of the “rules-based global order” in relation to the South China Sea. Malaysia also appears to be increasingly concerned about the situation. However, it has also sought to maintain a “special bilateral relationship” with China and has been unwilling to publicly confront China’s actions or take a strong stand regarding the South China Sea Crisis.

So, what’s the next step that UNSC will take?

The scope of the power of UNSC remains controversial as the involvement of western powers in the South China Sea might be based on imperialistic intentions instead of genuine offers of humanitarian aid.

It remains unclear what path the UN Security Council will take, but all members are currently working on a resolution that will provide a detailed plan of action about the economic and military strategies the governments should take in order to reduce the regional conflict in the South China Sea.