China’s Supreme Court has announced it will create a maritime judicial centre to handle territorial disputes. Chief Justice Zhou Qiang broke the news on Sunday during the ongoing annual meeting of China’s Parliament.
“(We) must resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty, maritime rights and other core interests,” Zhou said.
China is currently at odds with its neighbors over territorial claims in the South China Sea. China claims most of the resource-rich region. Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines claim parts of it as well. China is also in disputes with Japan over the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.
It is unlikely that these nations would acknowledge the legitimacy of China’s proposed maritime court.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is currently hearing a lawsuit brought against China by The Philippines.
Manila argues that China’s “nine-dash line,” which Beijing uses to define its territory in the South China Sea, is illegal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This document claims exclusive economic zones can only extend 200-nautical miles. Both nations have signed on to this agreement.
Still, Beijing doesn’t recognize the court in The Hague.
China has been escalating regional tensions by building artificial islands in the South China Sea. Some are complete with facilities, runways and even surface-to-air missiles. China maintains these actions are well within its rights and carried out to protect its sovereignty.