An international tribunal ruled unanimously Tuesday that there is no legal basis for China's "nine-dash line" claiming rights to much of the South China Sea. The panel of legal experts in the Hague said that any historic rights to resources that China may have had were wiped out if they're incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under a United Nations treaty, the AP reports. The Philippines, which brought the arbitration case against China, welcomed the ruling and pledged to pursue a peaceful resolution of its territorial disputes with China. The dispute centers on waters through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year and that are home to rich fishing stocks and a potential wealth of oil, gas, and other resources.
The ruling, which condemned China's land reclamation projects around disputed islands, "will make grim reading for Beijing," the Guardian notes. The tribunal found that much of the sea counts as international waters, and that the disputed Spratly Islands and other features claimed by China could not generate exclusive economic zones of their own, which gives the Philippines control of certain disputed areas. State media in China reacted angrily, saying Beijing "does not accept or acknowledge" the ruling and that China's military will "unswervingly safeguard state sovereignty, security, maritime rights, and interests." (Beijing may have to rethink its plans for floating nuclear power plants and manned deep-sea labs.)