Perhaps the most significant portion of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 12 500-page unanimous ruling on the South China Sea is the decision on Mischief Reef.
According to the ruling, the reef and everything on it legally belongs to the Philippines. This is in spite of China’s reclamation of approximately 5,580,000 square meters of land, and the construction of a 9,800-foot runway, radar nests, and what some experts have speculated is a soon-to-be naval base.
According to the ruling, Mischief Reef falls within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and lies approximately 129 nautical miles from Palawan and 51 nautical miles from Nanshan Island, which is occupied by the Philippines.
However, within a day of the PCA’s decision, China landed a civilian aircraft on the disputed reef for the first time. Chinese state-run media published photos of the flight crew posing in front of the plane at the newly constructed airport.