Subscribe to EIR Online


Foreign Policy Expert: All Leading Powers, Including the U.S., Have Ignored Hague Rulings

July 14, 2016 (EIRNS)— Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and most famous in recent years for his warning of the United States getting caught in the Thucydides Trap (a declining nation going to war with a rising nation simply because it was rising), issued a paper called "Of Course China, Like All Great Powers, Will Ignore an International Legal Verdict," published on The Diplomat site on July 11.

Allison notes that the United States, since it has not ratified UNCLOS, has never been involved in a Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) case under UNCLOS. But:

"The closest analogue to the Philippines case involving the United States arose in the 1980s, when Nicaragua sued Washington for mining its harbors. Like China today, the United States argued at that time that the International Court of Justice did not have the authority to hear Nicaragua’s case. When the court rejected that claim, the United States not only refused to participate in subsequent proceedings, but also denied the Court’s jurisdiction on any future case involving the United States, unless Washington explicitly made an exception and asked the Court to hear a case....

"When the Court found in favor of Nicaragua and ordered the United States to pay reparations, the U.S. refused, and vetoed six UN Security Council resolutions ordering it to comply with the court’s ruling. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick aptly summed up Washington’s view of the matter when she dismissed the court as a ‘semi-legal, semi-juridical, semi-political body, which nations sometimes accept and sometimes don’t.’"

Allison opens the article:

"It may seem un-American to ask whether China should do as we say, or, by contrast, as we do. But suppose someone were bold enough to pose that question. The first thing they would discover is that no permanent member of the UN Security Council has ever complied with a ruling by the PCA on an issue involving the Law of the Sea. In fact, none of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have ever accepted any international court’s ruling when (in their view) it infringed their sovereignty or national security interests."

He gives a case where Russia ignored a PCA ruling, then turns to the Brits. Noting that David Cameron has called on China to obey the PCA, Allison observes:

"Perhaps he had forgotten that just last year the PCA ruled that the U.K. had violated the Law of the Sea by unilaterally establishing a Marine Protected Area in the Chagos Islands [in the Indian Ocean]. The British government disregarded the ruling, and the Marine Protected Area remains in place today."

Back to top