South China Sea (SCS) is a part of the Pacific Ocean and is located at the south of mainland China. It shares border with Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.
SCS is bone of contention among these countries as it is rich in energy reserves, fishery resources, and is a vital conduit for much of world trade. The dispute surrounding the SCS is seen as Asia's most potentially dangerous point of conflict.
South China Sea is a resource-rich strategic waterway through which more than $5 trillion worth of world trade is shipped each year. China has placed runways and radar facilities on new islets in the disputed waters, built by piling huge amounts of sand onto reefs.
China's expansive claims over the South China Sea, contested and mirrored by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan have triggered concerns globally, with the US sending its warships in the disputed waters.
What happened on July 12, 2016?
In a bitter dispute that risks stoking further tensions in Southeast Asia, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration said, "China has no legal basis to claim "historic rights" to islands in the South China Sea." [Beijing's South China Sea claims rejected]
The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line'.
Angry China remains defiant
"China neither accepts nor recognises the ruling of a tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration established at the request of the Philippines. The award is null and void and has no binding force. China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea shall under no circumstances be affected by those awards"-- the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Philippines welcomes verdict
"The Philippines welcomes the issuance on the arbitration proceedings initiated by the Philippines with regard to the South China Sea. The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea"-- Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasa.
South China Sea ruling 'legally binding': US
"The United States expresses its hope and expectation that both parties will comply with their obligations. The decision by the tribunal is an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea. 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"-- State Department spokesman John Kirby.
Pakistan backs 'all-weather' ally China
"Pakistan opposes any imposition of unilateral will on others and respects China's statement of optional exception in light of Article 298 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Pakistan maintains that disputes over the SCS should be peacefully resolved through consultations and negotiations by states directly concerned in accordance with bilateral agreements and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea"-- Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria.
"India supports freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). India believes that states should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability"-- Ministry of External Affairs.
China claims about 90% of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands. China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbours.
Beijing waged a months-long campaign to discredit the panel, which it says has no jurisdiction in the multinational dispute, and it refused to take part in the case.
In 1947, China had issued a map of the sea, detailing its claims and the same claims were also made by Taiwan. Vietnam aggressively disputed the claims saying that China had never claimed soveriegnity over the islands before 1940s.
In 1974, a brief conflict with Vietnam over SCS had led to the death of over 70 Vietnamese soldiers.
In 1988, Vietnam again lost its 60 sailors in one of the stand-offs.
In Sept 2011, China and Vietnam had signed an agreement, in an attempt to contain the dispute over SCS.
In 2012, China and Philippines accused each other of intrusions.
In Jan 2013, Philippines challenged that it will take China to the UN tribunal under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to challenge its claims in the South China Sea.
In May 2014, China began to drill the sea for oil in waters disputed with Vietnam, that led to multiple incidents between Vietnamese and Chinese ships.
In July 2016, the tribunal backed the Philippines' case, saying China had violated the Philippines' sovereign rights.
In July 2010, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called China to resolve the territorial dispute. In response, China told US to keep itself out of the issue.
On April 27, 2015, 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), had issued a statement during a summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, saying, "Chinese island-building efforts may undermine peace, security and stability in the disputed South China Sea."
"We share the serious concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamation being undertaken in the South China Sea, which has eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability," it had said. [India enhances presence in South China Sea]
Despite its rhetoric of a united ASEAN community, the regional grouping has a history of failing to respond in a robust manner to Beijing due to China's immense trade and diplomatic leverage and because not all ASEAN states have a stake in the maritime disputes.
India supports the "freedom of navigation" in international waters including in the South China Sea. [Oceans should not become new theatres of contests: PM Narendra Modi]
Supporters of China on SCS
Moro National Liberation Front (A political party in the Philippines)