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In a ruling likely to have a dramatic effect on territorial disputes in the South China Sea — and the world’s relationship with Beijing — an international arbitration court ruled Tuesday that there was no “legal basis” for China to claim “historic rights” in the waters.

The ruling, handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, said that although Chinese navigators and fishermen have made use of the islands for generations, there is no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters within its so-called nine-dash line, which covers much of the South China Sea.

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