There Is No International Law for Sovereign States

International law is American power. China is an independent nation, as are Russia and the United States (the U.S. does not follow international law, it has sovereign immunity).

One can believe China's claims in the South China Sea are weak, but property exists because it is defended. The nations with claims in the South China Sea can take actions to defend them militarily or diplomatically. Otherwise they will be muscled out by China. The creation of artificial islands is the creation of property and the initiation of a claim. The historical claims are a fig leaf: China is asserting sovereignty and aggressively staking claims.

In a time of positive mood, the nations would all get together in order to discuss their claims. They would reach an agreement and all would profit. Any nation would have an incentive to seize territory in order to tilt the negotiations in its favor. In a time of negative mood, these actions generate conflict and reduce the odds of a peaceful settlement.

The most powerful non-military weapon available to these smaller states is economic sanctions. As discussed in The Logic of Strategy: Yuan Devaluation and the Road to Trade War, slowing China's economy will impair its ability to project military power. Here's the SCMP on the Philippines' next move: How will Philippines and China move on after South China Sea ruling?
The Philippines is likely to opt for a “soft landing” following Tuesday’s rulings by an international tribunal on a territorial row in the South China Sea, analysts say, adding the country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte, could seek economic concessions from China in order to resolve it.
Eventually, the states involved in the SCS dispute will figure out they need to lead with economic sanctions or their own aggressive action in order to reach a settlement. International courts will be useless, unless it serves to bring outside nations into the conflict, giving nations such as the United States, Japan, India, and European powers the pretext to intervene.

ZeroHedge has a good roundup of the UN Tribunal decision: China Has No Legal Claim to Most of South China Sea, UN Tribunal Finds
In a second blow for Beijing, the tribunal decided that China wasn't entitled to an exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, extending up to 200 nautical miles from one island in the Spratlys archipelago, Itu Aba, which is claimed by China and currently controlled by Taiwan. The clearly politically-motivated decision, based on a U.N. convention on maritime law, comes after several years of escalating tension in the region as China has alarmed the U.S. and its allies by using its rapidly expanding naval and air power to assert territorial claims and challenge U.S. military supremacy in Asia.

The Philippines case is seen as a test of China’s commitment to a rules-based international order which the U.S. and its allies say has been undermined by Beijing’s recent military activities, including construction of seven fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea. The ruling on Itu Aba is important because the U.N. maritime convention allows countries to build artificial islands in their own EEZs, and all of the seven structures China has built lie within 200 nautical miles of Itu Aba, which Taiwan calls Taiping Island. It also means that China has no legal claim to an EEZ overlapping that of the Philippines.

In a statement published on a verified social media feed just before the ruling, China’s Ministry of Defense said the decision wouldn't affect its approach in the South China Sea.

“No matter what the result of the arbitration, the Chinese military will unswervingly protect the nation’s sovereignty, security and maritime rights, resolutely protect the safety and stability of the region, and face down all manner of threats and challenges,” it said. After the ruling, the ministry referred to the comment as its official statement.
SCMP: China’s Xi Jinping rejects any action based on international court’s South China Sea ruling
China will not accept any proposition or action based on an international tribunal’s ruling over the disputed South China Sea, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday.
In a Xinhua report released after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against Beijing’s claims over the much-contested region, Xi said China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in the waters would not, under any circumstances, be affected by the verdict.

China Daily: S. China Sea arbitration: A US-led conspiracy behind the farce
So, we can tell that Washington has taken sides from the very beginning. What has it done before and behind the curtain then? Generally, it took four kinds of actions.

First, colluding with its allies to rubbish China.

Regarding the South China Sea arbitration, U.S. government officials and media have expressed many negative opinions of China, so as to portray Beijing as a "violator" of international order. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter used to say in public that China's activity in the South China Sea could lead to a "great wall of self-isolation." Japan, as an ally of Washington, was also active and enthusiastic in helping the U.S. to suppress China.

Second, showing off military force and putting pressure on China.

The U.S. has been stepping up military actions in the South China Sea recently. Particularly, in the middle of June, two U.S. aircraft carriers, the USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan, launched joint operations in the South China Sea, staging a show of force aimed at China.

In the meantime, Japan also launched joint military exercises with the Philippines and conducted arms sales with the latter, which is meant to put pressure on China. On July 8, Washington and Seoul jointly announced the deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) systems in South Korea, and the ulterior motive behind it was obvious enough.

Third, playing China and ASEAN countries off each other.

Chu Yin, a research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization said that "the U.S. escalates the tensions in the South China Sea with an essential purpose of containing China." For the U.S., sabotaging the relations between China and ASEAN countries is an effective way to hinder China's development, apart from being a best solution with low cost and high efficiency to increase Southeast Asian countries' dependence on it.

Fourth, manipulating the international arbitration tribunal and complicating the South China Sea issues into a "dead knot."

Once the arbitration tribunal makes a verdict against China, it will amount to fulfilling the U.S. purpose, putting an end to the tranquility in the South China Sea. In that case, the prospects for China-Philippine disputes to get resolved peacefully will be reduced.

In addition, the United States has been calculating the timing and progress of the arbitration. Initially, the U.S. had the press leak the message that the arbitration result would be announced on July 7, making all involved parties tense. Later on June 29, the secretariat of arbitration tribunal said July 12 would be the date when the verdict on the concrete issues of the Philippine-led arbitration on the South China Sea would be made public.

The timing of the announcement totally reflected the U.S. calculations as June 30 was the date that the new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was to be sworn in. Picking this date to announce the verdict represents no more than a backing up of the new Philippine government, a move that the U.S. hopes will minimize the possible improvement between China-Philippine relations.

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