Historically, China claims virtually the entire South China Sea. It is often heard from Chinese government officials that South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea is historical territory of China since the ancient times.
However, if legal experts are to be asked China’s historical claim is invalid and illegal.
China said they have plenty of historical and jurisprudence evidence to prove their claims over the disputed waters, but, when the arbitration court in The Hague asked Chinese government to present a counter-Memorial against Philippines’ Memorial, the Chinese government said it does not accept the arbitration initiated by the Philippines.
Basing on what China said ‘historical claims’, history shows that past Chinese empires did not exercise sovereignty over Spratly Islands. “All these ancient maps show that since the first Chinese maps appeared,the southern most territory of China has always been Hainan Island,” a Philippine top-justice said.
“Historical facts, even if true, relating to discovery and exploration in the Age of Discovery or even earlier, have no bearing whatsoever in the resolution of maritime disputes under UNCLOS. Neither Spain nor Portugal can ever revive their 15th century claims to ownership of all the oceans and seas of our planet, despite the 1481 Papal Bull confirming the division of the then undiscovered world between Spain and Portugal. The sea voyages of the Chinese Imperial Admiral Zheng He, from 1405-1433, can never be the basis of any claim to the South China Sea. Neither can historical names serve as basis for claiming the oceans and seas. The South China Sea was not even named by the Chinese but by European navigators and cartographers. The Song and Ming Dynasties called the South China Sea the “Giao Chi Sea,” and the Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China as well as the People’s Republic of China call it the “South Sea” without the word “China.” India cannot claim the Indian Ocean, and Mexico cannot claim the Gulf of Mexico, in the same way that the Philippines cannot claim the Philippine Sea, just because historically these bodies of water have been named after these countries,” Justice Antonio Carpio explained.