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Can there be a peaceful solution in the South China Sea?

17 8 13

FIVE years ago, Mischief Reef was fully underwater at high tide – a ring of submerged coral in the middle of the ocean, approximately 125 nautical miles from the Philippine island of Palawan. A further 100 nautical miles into the ocean sits Fiery Cross Reef – five years ago, the biggest dry feature was two-foot rock jutting up above the waves at high tide.

These features – along with five others in the South China Sea – have since been drastically transformed by China, which has dredged millions of tons of sand and coral to build artificial islands. These islands are equipped with functional runways, radar domes and hangars.

Recently, it has been reported that China has added anti-cruise ship missiles and surface to air missiles on three of the artificial islands; this despite a promise in 2015 from Xi Jinping not to do so.

This move to further militarise the artificial islands was met with international condemnation. But what can the international community do next?

SEE ALSO: Philippines eyes buying submarines amid row in South China Sea

Any route through international dispute resolution mechanisms will be difficult to navigate. Indeed, it has been done before, with little practical effect.

In 2013, the Philippines brought arbitral proceedings against China pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The convention, unlike many international treaties, provides for a compulsory dispute resolution mechanism.

China rejected the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal and refused to participate directly in the proceedings, instead publically issuing a series of........

© Asian Correspondent