Japan, US: PH-China dispute ruling final, legally binding

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Japan and the United States on Tuesday, July 12, welcomed the decision of the United Nations-backed tribunal in the dispute between the Philippines and China on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan said the tribunal's award is "final and legally binding" on the parties, and that they expect the parties to "comply with the award."

"Japan has consistently advocated the importance of the rule of law and the use of peaceful means, not the use of force or coercion, in seeking settlement of maritime disputes," the statement said.

"Japan strongly expects that the parties’ compliance with this award will eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea," it added.

The United States, meanwhile, said the international tribunal ruling against Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea was an "important contribution" towards resolving regional disputes.

The US State Department said the Permanent Court of Arbitration's decision in the suit lodged against China by the Philippines should be seen as "final and legally binding."

"The United States expresses its hope and expectation that both parties will comply with their obligations," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

"The decision today by the tribunal in the Philippines-China arbitration is an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea," Kirby said.

US officials are "studying the decision and have no comment on the merits of the case," he added, but nevertheless asserted the right of the tribunal to make its ruling and said it should be respected.

"The United States strongly supports the rule of law. We support efforts to resolve territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea peacefully, including through arbitration," he said.

"As provided in the Convention, the tribunal's decision is final and legally binding on both China and the Philippines," he added, urging all claimants "to avoid provocative statements or actions."

But China said it is "does not accept" the tribunal's ruling.

Japan is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with China, over territory in the East China Sea.

The United States has no claims of its own within the contested sea, but has asserted the right of all shipping to pass through areas it regards as international waters.

And Washington is an ally of the Southeast Asian countries which do dispute China's claim, including the Philippines, which lodged the international suit. – with reports from the Agence France-Presse and KD Suarez/Rappler.com