TodayWorld News

The Function of United Nations Conference on the Legal guidelines of the Sea within the South China Sea Disputes

It is a pre-print excerpt from Asian Territorial and Maritime Disputes: A Crucial Introduction. You may obtain the ebook freed from cost from E-International Relations.

Interstate conflicts have formed the future of countries because the very starting of their formation. Wars between and inside states have helped to forge the present worldwide system, creating new legal guidelines and governments, and solidifying historical ones. Nevertheless, conflicts additionally jeopardize peace and safety around the globe, particularly when they don’t obtain due consideration from the worldwide group. One such battle is at the moment underway within the South China Sea (SCS). The tensions are territorial in nature, with some events claiming the rights to islands based mostly on worldwide regulation and conventions, and others asserting their claims as historic rights. Additional time, as tensions elevated, the events have tried to settle their dispute with the assistance of worldwide our bodies, such because the Everlasting Court docket of Arbitration (PCA), and the appliance of United Nations Conference on the Regulation of the Sea (UNCLOS). Nevertheless, little to no success has been achieved in reducing the battle within the area. The aim of this chapter is threefold: (1) to supply a geopolitical and authorized overview of the SCS disputes, specializing in the significance of the area and figuring out the totally different territorial claims; (2) to elucidate the key try at battle decision within the area made by UNCLOS and the PCA; and (3) to critically analyse the impression of UNCLOS on the SCS disputes, highlighting its deserves and shortcomings within the area’s foremost try at battle decision.

The second part of this chapter supplies a background on the SCS battle, specializing in the explanations and the main points for it. It examines the strategic significance of the area, in addition to analyses the varied territorial claims, explaining the assertions made by the first claimant states. The third part displays on the dispute settlement mechanism below the auspices of UNCLOS, offering an outline of the conference to information the dialogue. Then, it investigates the arbitration between the Philippines and China, which was introduced earlier than the PCA. The fourth part supplies a quick evaluation of the UNCLOS battle decision mechanism in mild of the South China Sea Arbitration.

Dispute Background

The SCS encompasses a number of hundred small islands, reefs, and atolls, nearly all uninhabited and uninhabitable, inside a 1.4 million sq. mile space (Bader 2016). Two island teams – the Spratly and Paracel Islands – have been the first focus of the disputes for many years because of their significance to the coastal international locations surrounding them.

First, the area is wealthy in oil and pure fuel reserves, however correct estimates are troublesome to search out. In line with the US Power Info Administration (EIA), the world comprises 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190-500 trillion cubic toes of pure fuel (EIA 2013), whereas the Ministry of Geological Assets and Mining of the Individuals’s Republic of China (PRC) has estimated that the variety of barrels could also be as excessive as 130 billion (Kaplan 2015). Second, the world is a serious buying and selling route. Specifically, it’s thought of as one of many busiest delivery lanes on the planet with an annual commerce of US$5.3 trillion passing by the area (CFR 2017). This quantity represents half of the world’s annual service provider fleet tonnage and a 3rd of all maritime visitors globally (Kaplan 2015).

Moreover, the oil transported by the South China Sea coming from the Indian Ocean is thrice larger than the quantity that transits the Suez Canal and 15 occasions greater than what goes by the Panama Canal. The first driver for this has been the rise in China’s oil consumption, in addition to a big a part of South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan’s power provides coming by the area. Therefore, it’s no shock that management of the world is of utmost significance. As an example, China has dubbed the South China Sea its Second Persian Gulf: not solely does 80% of the nation’s crude oil imports cross by the area, but additionally an enormous assortment of products (Kaplan 2015; CFR 2017).

This side of the area is without doubt one of the main causes for the contentions concerning the islands, since a lot of them lie within the unique financial zones (EEZ) of Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Thus, it isn’t stunning that these coastal states, together with China, Brunei and the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan, are pushing ahead with their very own territorial claims within the space. Every needs to safe its personal nationwide pursuits by asserting their rights to unique exploitation of the area by the utilization of worldwide regulation and different mechanisms to guarantee these are protected and exercised.

Moreover, the South China Sea has a few of the world’s richest reef programs, with greater than 3,000 indigenous and migratory fish species. It additionally constitutes greater than 12% of worldwide fishing (Greer 2016). Thus, the area gives considerable fishing alternatives, and whoever has management over its waters may have the potential to assist and additional develop its fishery sector. This side of the SCS has already led to many clashes within the area between the Philippines and Chinese language fishing vessels (Kaplan 2015; EIA 2016).

Furthermore, competitors over fisheries within the space has been escalating, and it tends to extend extra over time as soon as fishing within the area turns into extra jeopardized. In 2008, it was already estimated that the fishery shares within the area had been changing into depleted, with 25% being over-exploited and 50% totally exploited with none makes an attempt at growing sustainable fishing practices within the area (Greer 2016).

Territorial Claims

The claims within the SCS are twofold. Whereas some allegations are based mostly on historic rights, others enchantment to provisions of UNCLOS. These a number of territorial claims point out a scarcity of settlement among the many events, which resulted in a regional battle that has been taking place for many years. The evaluation of those claims (Figures 1.1 and 1.2) might be made in mild of UNCLOS pointers from 1982, since all coastal states in Southeast Asia have ratified it. Thus, an outline of most claimant events might be carried out, to make clear their allegations and spotlight the main points within the battle, specializing in claims made by China and the Philippines, to raised set up the case studied on this chapter.


Hanoi claims the Spratly and Paracel Islands together with the Gulf of Thailand. Nevertheless, in contrast to China, Vietnam has not written its prolonged claims over the South China Sea in official texts or maps. So far as the Spratly Islands are involved, within the Nineteen Seventies, Vietnam established them as an offshore district of the Khanh Hoa Province, occupying a number of islands. That very same decade, China seized the archipelago in a army engagement often called the Battle of the Paracel Islands (EIA 2013; Tonnesson 2000). In a bid to solidify its claims, Vietnam employed archaeologists to supply proof to assist the nation’s lengthy historic presence within the SCS. It was asserted that the state has actively dominated each the Paracels and the Spratlys because the seventeenth Century (BBC 2016). Consequently, China, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines oppose Vietnam’s claims.

Vietnam and Malaysia collectively submitted their territorial claims within the South China Sea to the UN Fee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2009 (CLCS 2009). The submission was thought of official, and the international locations needed to make clear their positions on the authorized standing of options and limits of their claims within the area (EIA 2013; Nguyen 2020). Vietnam additionally adopted a maritime regulation in 2012 during which it claimed jurisdiction over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, requiring that each one naval ships from international states register with Vietnamese authorities when passing by the area (EIA 2013).


Kuala Lumpur’s participation within the SCS disputes began in 1979, when the Malaysian Division of Mapping and Survey unveiled an official map inserting the Spratly Islands throughout the nation’s continental shelf (Roach 2014). This map overlapped the EEZ and continental shelf of Malaysia and different states, which drew protests from neighbours together with China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Though Malaysia’s declare was thought of weak by some authorized analysts (EIA 2013; Roach 2014), it was not inferior to China or Vietnam’s claims to the whole Spratly archipelago.

In 2009, pursuant to Article 76, paragraph 8 of UNCLOS[1], Malaysia and Vietnam collectively submitted to the CLCS info on the boundaries of the continental shelf past 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured in respect of the southern a part of the South China Sea (CLCS 2009). Up to now, the CLCS didn’t make any suggestions issues associated to the institution of the outer limits of their continental shelf. Nonetheless, the actions of those two international locations might be considered steps inside worldwide regulation to solidify their claims.

A decade later, in 2019, Malaysia made a partial submission to the CLCS for the remaining portion of states’ the continental shelf past 200 nautical miles within the northern a part of the SCS (Malaysia 2017). Beforehand, Malaysia’s place on the dispute had usually been characterised as subdued: working towards quiet diplomacy and demonstrating a willingness to strengthen bilateral ties with China, somewhat than confronting Beijing publicly (Parameswaran 2016). Following their newest submission, Kuala Lumpur’s technique appeared to alter, leaning in direction of compliance with UNCLOS and departing from an alignment with China’s place. Moreover, Malaysia has additionally used diplomatic, political, and financial measures to maintain its claims by enhancing its ties with the USA and supporting a united entrance on the a part of the Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Parameswaran 2016; Nguyen 2020).


After it gained independence in 1984, Brunei launched maps during which it declared a 200-nautical mile EEZ overlapping the Chinese language nine-dash line and a continental shelf extending to a hypothetical median with Vietnam. In so doing, the Brunei authorities claimed a part of the Spratly Islands archipelago nearer to its EEZ within the north of Borneo (Rüland 2005). Perceived for years as a silent claimant, Brunei bases its claims on UNCLOS (EIA 2013; Putra 2021).

Brunei has usually adopted a cooperative, impartial stance concerning the SCS disputes, being in favour of a collective method to offering maritime safety and resolving disagreements (Brunei’s Ministry of Defence 2011). At occasions, nonetheless, the sultanate has sided with China’s choice for bilateral agreements, because of its weaker army energy and dependency on oil reserves to maintain its economic system and monarchical rule (Putra 2021).


The Individuals’s Republic of China bases its declare to the Spratly and Paracel Islands on historic naval expeditions relationship again to the fifteenth century (EIA 2013). In 1947, the Kuomintang – then, the social gathering in command of China – drew a line across the aforementioned islands, calling it the nine-dash line map (Determine 1.3). In doing so, China declared its sovereignty over all islands enveloped by this line (Nguyen 2015). After the Communist Celebration ascended to energy in 1949 and established the PRC, the brand new authorities continued to make use of this map in official correspondence and claimed rights to the waters inside it. At the moment, China maintains its declare over the SCS based mostly on this and different historic proof (EIA 2013).  

In 2009, following the joint submission of Vietnam and Malaysia to the Fee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), China submitted the nine-dash line map to the CLCS, looking for to solidify its declare and legitimize it past 200 nautical miles.[2] China’s claims resulted in Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Philippines additionally declaring rights over the islands and varied zones within the SCS, instantly contesting the Chinese language claims (EIA 2013). Nevertheless, the nine-dash line map just isn’t in accordance with the provisions of UNCLOS. Specifically, the Conference stipulates pointers on baselines, the width of territorial waters, the regime of islands[3], the low-tide elevations, the unique financial zone, the continental shelf, the maritime boundary delimitation, and dispute settlement, that are all relevant to the South China Sea (United Nations 1982). Therefore, the muse of the Chinese language claims over the islands is unsubstantiated as a result of it fails to observe the Conference’s determinations and doesn’t present enough historic proof.

Nonetheless, aiming to reclaim land within the South China Sea, China has engaged in island-building, growing the dimensions of islands and turning islets and different options into full-fledged islands with a view to produce an EEZ extending 200 nautical miles (CFR 2017). Due to this fact, PRC is claiming its rights over and across the islands that can’t naturally assist habitation, in addition to constructing new ones to broaden the world that will be below its sovereignty.

These actions go in opposition to UNCLOS, which states in Article 121, paragraph 3 that ‘rocks which can not maintain human habitation or financial lifetime of their very own shall haven’t any unique financial zone or continental shelf.’ Unsurprisingly, China’s place and operations have difficult Beijing’s relationships with its neighbours, which even have claims within the area. Because of this, the disputes have escalated tremendously, resulting in conditions the place vessels have been sunk, and army workouts have been carried out to say sovereignty (EIA 2013).

The Philippines

Manila’s claims are each authorized and historic over the Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which is comprised of fifty options of the Spratly islands (Rosen 2014). These claims conflict with China’s declarations of possession. In 1956, the Philippine authorities started explorations within the SCS, legitimizing these by claiming that the islands and the shoal had been terra nullius, or no man’s land, and furthered it by occupying a number of of the Spratly Islands and naming them the Kalayaan Island Group. As well as, the Philippines declared the aforementioned islands and shoals as a particular regime of islands that, regardless of being distinct from the remainder of the Philippine archipelago, belongs to Manila (EIA 2013).

Beneath the provisions of UNCLOS, Philippine sovereignty seems stronger, as a result of an EEZ might be declared as much as 200 nautical miles from the baseline. Each teams of islands are 400 nautical miles nearer to the Philippines than to China, are throughout the Philippine’s EEZ and are acknowledged as such below UNCLOS. Regardless of being in keeping with the provisions of UNCLOS, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam have objected to the Philippines’ claims, which led to a rise of tensions within the SCS (CFR 2017).

Makes an attempt at Decision: UNCLOS and South China Sea Arbitration

Within the try to discover a peaceable decision, bilateral and multilateral agreements had been pursued by the claimant events, and a few had been signed.[4] Because of the scope of this chapter, we are going to forgo the investigation of such agreements, and hereby look at the UNCLOS mechanism for dispute settlement and its function within the SCS battle.

United Nations Conference on the Regulation of the Sea

The primary name for a ‘structure of the seas’ was introduced forth on 1 November 1967 by Arvid Pardo, then Ambassador to the United Nations. In his speech on the Normal Meeting, he addressed the problems of rising rivalry between states, which was spreading to the oceans; the air pollution of the seas; the conflicting authorized claims and their collateral results on stability and order; and the potential richness of the seabed (United Nations 1967; United Nations 1998).

After three UN conferences on the Regulation of the Sea, UNCLOS was created. The UNCLOS III got here into impact on 14 November 1994 exactly 21 years after the primary assembly and one 12 months after ratification by the sixtieth state (GRID-Arendal 2014). Up to now, there are 168 state-parties to the settlement (United Nations 2020). One of many foremost functions of UNCLOS III is to strengthen peace, safety, cooperation, and pleasant relations amongst all nations in conformity with the rules of justice and equal rights (United Nations 1982). The distinctive dispute decision system below UNCLOS is without doubt one of the most notable options of the Conference.

Dispute Decision Mechanism below UNCLOS

Professor Natalie Klein, dean of Macquarie Regulation College in 2014, began her evaluation of the 20 years of dispute settlement below UNCLOS stating that one ought to at all times attain for the celebrities, and if one solely reaches the rooftops, then not less than one had gotten off the bottom (Klein 2014). Such ambition might be discovered within the idealized model of the dispute settlement mechanism of UNCLOS, as soon as it aimed to be obligatory and indispensable to the answer of all maritime disputes. The consequence was a politically life like system with varied dispute settlement means, exceptions and limitations, however nonetheless obligatory and indispensable to some disputes. Thus, it may be argued that  ‘it isn’t attainable to conclude that UNCLOS dispute settlement regime has reached the celebrities, however we will have a wholesome debate as to what stage rooftop has been reached’ (Klein 2014, 359).

The restrictions and exceptions to obligatory dispute settlement had been set out in Half XV, Part 3 of UNCLOS (Churchill 2017). As an example, earlier than resorting to obligatory dispute settlement below Half XV, Part 2, the events needed to first attempt to resolve their dispute by the means supplied in Half XV, Part 1. Articles 279–285 of mentioned Part 1 lay out the duty to settle disputes by peaceable means. It provides events the choice to settle disputes by any peaceable means[5] they select; units out a process for when no settlement might be reached by the events; refers to obligations below common, regional, or bilateral agreements; units out guidelines for conciliation; and supplies for the appliance of this part to disputes submitted pursuant to Half XI – the Space (United Nations 1982).[6]

Moreover, below Article 283 of UNCLOS, states have an obligation to trade views concerning settlement of disputes in regards to the interpretation or software of UNCLOS by negotiation or different peaceable means. Moreover, the events shall proceed to trade views even the place the dispute has not been solved by peaceable means, however it requires session on the style of implementing the settlement (United Nations 1982).

Solely after such makes an attempt at dispute settlement have confirmed to be unsuccessful can one resort to Half XV, Part 2 of UNCLOS, which units out guidelines for the decision of disputes between State Events arising out of the interpretation or software of UNCLOS (Tribunal 2018). Pursuant to Article 287(1) of UNCLOS, when signing, ratifying, or acceding to UNCLOS, a state could make a declaration selecting a number of of the next means for settling such disputes:

  • the Worldwide Tribunal for the Regulation of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany;
  • the Worldwide Court docket of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands;
  • advert hoc arbitration (in accordance with Annex VII of UNCLOS); or
  • a “particular arbitral tribunal” constituted for sure classes of disputes (established below Annex VIII of UNCLOS).

The number of decisions for dispute settlement boards was a crucial precondition for state events to just accept the obligatory jurisdiction, much more in order they had been unable to agree on a single discussion board (Churchill 2017). Moreover, it’s set out in Article 287(3) of UNCLOS that arbitration below Annex VII is the default technique of dispute settlement in circumstances the place a state has not declared a choice for a dispute decision mechanism out there below Article 287(1) of UNCLOS, or when a state has not made any reservation or optionally available exceptions pursuant to Article 298 of UNCLOS. 

Pursuant to Article 287(5) of UNCLOS, if the events haven’t accepted the identical process for the settlement of disputes, the dispute can solely be submitted for arbitration below Annex VII. Nevertheless, as acknowledged above, there are limitations and exceptions to the obligatory dispute settlement.

In Half XV, Part 3, Article 297, limitations and exceptions to the aforementioned dispute settlement fora leaves a risk for states when signing, ratifying, or acceding to this Conference – or at any time thereafter – to declare in writing that it doesn’t settle for a number of of the supplied procedures. Such an announcement might be made with respect to a number of disputes regarding maritime boundaries with neighbouring states or these involving historic bays or titles, disputes regarding army actions, and sure sorts of regulation enforcement actions in an EEZ and/or disputes over which Safety Council is exercising its duties below the UN Constitution (United Nations 1982; Churchill 2017)[7].

It is usually supplied in Article 297 that there isn’t any obligation for a coastal state to just accept referral by one other state to legally binding dispute settlement in regards to the train of its rights within the fisheries and marine scientific analysis (Churchill 2017). Nonetheless, a few of the disputes which are exempted from obligatory dispute settlement are topic to obligatory conciliation. Therefore, the obligatory dispute settlement system below UNCLOS is one among its greatest property, regardless of the troublesome street travelled to achieve it.

Everlasting Court docket of Arbitration (Tribunal) – South China Sea Arbitration

As talked about above, a member state of UNCLOS could select the ITLOS, the ICJ, an advert hoc arbitration, or a ‘particular arbitral tribunal’ to settle its dispute. After failing to resolve the dispute by negotiations, the Philippines elected to deliver its dispute in opposition to China on the SCS earlier than the Tribunal. The arbitration began on 22 January 2013 below the obligatory dispute settlement provisions of UNCLOS. You will need to stress that UNCLOS doesn’t tackle the sovereignty of states over land territory which the Tribunal itself has additionally underlined within the remaining award introduced within the case at hand.

The arbitration offers with disputes between the events concerning the authorized foundation of maritime rights and entitlement within the SCS; the standing of sure geographic options within the SCS; and the lawfulness of sure actions taken by China within the SCS. The Tribunal in its remaining award sorted the Philippines’ requests into 4 classes to be resolved:

  1. dispute in regards to the supply of maritime rights and entitlement within the SCS;
  2. dispute in regards to the entitlement to maritime zones that will be generated below the UNCLOS by Scarborough Shoal and sure maritime options within the Spratly Islands claimed by each the Philippines and China;
  3. collection of disputes in regards to the lawfulness of China’s actions within the SCS;
  4. to search out that China has aggravated and prolonged the disputes between the events throughout the course of this arbitration by limiting entry to a detachment of Philippines’ marines and by participating within the large-scale building of synthetic islands and land reclamation at seven reefs within the Spratly Islands. 

From the start, China made it clear that it refused to take part within the arbitration or to adjust to the ultimate award. China communicated this place in public statements and in lots of diplomatic Notes Verbales, each to the Philippines and to the Tribunal. 

Moreover, in 2006, China made a declaration to exclude maritime boundary delimitations from its acceptance of a obligatory dispute settlement. This is without doubt one of the objections that China expressed in its Place Paper on the Matter of Jurisdiction within the South China Sea, despatched to the Tribunal on 12 July 2014, the place it provided an intensive authorized evaluation of every of its objections and expressed its refusal to adjust to the Tribunal’s resolution (PRC 2014).

In its Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, the Tribunal discovered that it couldn’t agree with China’s arguments and concluded that it certainly had jurisdiction over the case. Furthermore, although China insisted that its communication shouldn’t be interpreted as participation, the Tribunal, throughout adjudication, took all this into consideration. 

The Tribunal overwhelmingly dominated in favour of the Philippines within the award launched on 12 July 2016. It concluded that, within the matter of China’s claims of historic rights and its nine-dash line, China had no authorized foundation to say historic rights to sources throughout the sea areas falling throughout the nine-dash line. The Tribunal discovered that China and different states had traditionally made use of the islands within the SCS, however it discovered no proof that China had traditionally exercised unique management over the waters and their sources (Tribunal 2016).

The Tribunal additionally concluded that the Spratly Islands couldn’t generate its personal EEZ as a result of they weren’t inhabited and it was traditionally unimaginable for them to be inhabited, and below the availability of UNCLOS: ‘[r]ocks which can not maintain human habitation or financial lifetime of their very own shall haven’t any unique financial zone or continental shelf.’ Thus, the Tribunal declared that the areas are throughout the EEZ of the Philippines, stating that ‘these areas usually are not overlapped by any attainable entitlement of China’ (Tribunal 2016, 10).

Publish-Award Developments

After the award was launched, China continued to oppose the ruling and didn’t acknowledge the award. The Chinese language Ministry of Overseas Affairs stood behind the state’s interpretation that because the Tribunal proceeded with the arbitration regardless of China’s refusal to take part, this voided and nullified the award (Philips et al. 2016). As such, the Chinese language authorities acknowledged that China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights within the area remained unaffected by the ruling.

Within the Philippines, in the meantime, there was a reversal of coverage. Following the election of Rodrigo Duterte as president in 2016 on an anti-American, pro-China platform, Manila declared that it wished to ‘set the award apart’ and renegotiate the dispute settlement instantly with China (The Guardian 2016). This capitulation to Beijing was a sign of Duterte’s ambition to spice up Sino-Filipino ties in a bid to draw Chinese language funding (Camba 2018). Duterte additionally confused his intention to lower the Philippines’ dependence on the USA, going so far as to not think about America an ally, and turning towards China for financial partnership (The Guardian 2016; BBC 2017).

Nevertheless, in 2019, Duterte started to point out indicators of standing as much as Chinese language forays into the Philippine territory, particularly after tensions rose because of Individuals’s Liberation Military Navy incursions and the gathering of Chinese language fishing vessels close to the Philippines’ Pag-asa Island – the executive centre of the Kalayaan group and positioned 932 kilometres southwest of Manila. Duterte declared tensions may escalate to armed battle to guard the island if crucial (The Guardian 2019). In 2020, Duterte delivered a speech to the seventy fifth UN Normal Meeting during which he expressed assist for the Hague’s ruling, stating that the award is ‘a part of worldwide regulation, past compromise and past the attain of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon’ (Duterte 2020). Moreover, Duterte asserted that any makes an attempt by China to undermine the award could be rejected and fought off. To assist this place, the USA acknowledged that within the occasion of an armed assault, it could come to the Philippines’ assist, however the present shaken state of their relationship (Strangio 2020). These developments, and the upkeep of claims by each China and the Philippines, additional complicate the possibilities for peaceable decision of the dispute.

Thus, the SCS disputes proceed to rage on and to attract the eye of the worldwide society. This unresolved territorial feud has the potential to escalate to armed battle, which might deliver insecurity and instability to the area. Having in thoughts the significance of the area, it’s of excessive precedence to settle this dispute peacefully, avoiding any sort of armed battle.

Analysing the Dispute Settlement Mechanism below UNCLOS in South China Sea

States are typically amenable to the UNCLOS system as a result of it permits them to retain management over the dispute and negotiate the situations of a decision somewhat than to search out themselves sure by strict guidelines of regulation. Moreover, the unpredictability of worldwide litigation additionally favours negotiation (Churchill 2017). As such, the selection between diplomatic technique of dispute settlement and settlement by litigation is a matter of financial, political, and public repute technique. States will not often select to litigate when they’re conscious the probabilities of dropping the dispute are fairly excessive. Furthermore, dispute decision by diplomatic means is cheaper, may very well be sooner, and provides states sufficient house to mitigate the damaging publicity that would consequence from litigation (Churchill 2017).

Nonetheless, there are circumstances the place negotiations have didn’t generate a settlement or to take care of an agreed-upon settlement as such. The disputes within the SCS fall into the latter class[8]. The UNCLOS mechanism provides states, particularly weaker ones, consolation and safety in circumstances the place one of many events to a dispute – like China within the SCS – persistently insists on solely addressing disputes by bilateral negotiations, as a result of it enjoys important benefits over different international locations. It’s notable that the Tribunal within the award within the South China Sea Arbitration acknowledged the significance of negotiation in dispute settlement, stressing that the events had been free to make use of different strategies of dispute settlement however provided that these had been in accordance with worldwide regulation (Nguyen 2018).

One of many benefits of obligatory dispute settlement mechanism is the number of dispute settlement boards from which states can select, all of which have constructive and damaging points. As seen, arbitration below Half VII is a default dispute settlement mechanism in case disputing events selected totally different fora. Moreover, arbitration is a discussion board extra versatile than, for instance, the ICJ or ITLOS, because the appointment of arbitrators and choices about procedures and guidelines of arbitration stays below the management of the disputing events (Singh 2016). One of many foremost disadvantages is the excessive monetary value of such arbitration, since each events should pay excessive charges to arbitrators and courtroom registrars, pay to hire the premises during which proceedings are held, and pay for secretarial and deciphering companies. One other problem for arbitration than value is its perceived decrease standing compared with different fora. As an example, it has been argued that arbitration doesn’t possess the identical status because the ICJ does, which is mirrored within the increased charges of compliance with ICJ choices in comparison with arbitral tribunal awards (Singh 2016).

Such problems with non-compliance might be highlighted in China’s declared non-participation, disobedience, and disrespect towards the arbitral award issued within the South China Sea Arbitration. It’s indeniable that the award didn’t settle the dispute or mitigate its escalation. Nonetheless, it could be a mistake to fully categorize it as a failure. The award has, for the primary time in worldwide jurisprudence, supplied clarification on the that means of historic rights claims and the regime of islands pursuant to Article 121 of UNCLOS (Nguyen 2018, 105). Furthermore, by rejecting China’s claims based mostly on the nine-dash line, the Tribunal has additionally confirmed its stance towards extreme claims and lowered the maritime areas topic to the dispute. By doing so, the Tribunal supplied clarification of disputed areas and lawful overlapping claims. That is necessary as a result of, previous to the award, disputant states within the area had not outlined which options they believed had been islands and what maritime zones they’re entitled to say from such islands (Nguyen 2018, 104). Due to this fact, it’s affordable to anticipate {that a} important variety of states will make clear their claims based mostly on the definitions supplied within the award. Such can already be seen in Malaysia’s 2019 partial submission, during which the state outlined the extent of its northern and southern continental shelfs (Malaysia 2017). In doing so, Kuala Lumpur confirmed implicit assist to the 2016 Tribunal award and strengthened the Tribunal’s stance. This might consequently result in extra states doing the identical and, finally, to some type of dispute settlement.

Lastly, enforcement of and compliance with choices made below worldwide regulation just isn’t a brand new problem. Nonetheless, historical past has proven that typically the non-compliance rhetoric of a state doesn’t at all times replicate its actions and behavior within the discipline, which signifies that lack of an enforcement mechanism doesn’t essentially translate to non-compliance (Nguyen 2018). Moreover, even in circumstances the place dispute settlement mechanisms have didn’t generate compliance or mitigate the escalation of a dispute, it nonetheless supplied some clarification on the interpretation and software of the related provisions, which may very well be essential in a remaining dispute settlement. 


The South China Sea disputes have been shaping relationships amongst nations for varied many years. Not solely are the states instantly concerned within the disputes impacted, but additionally these outdoors of it, who’ve been making an attempt to scale back the tensions and discover agreements on the a number of overlapping claims. The considerable pure sources within the space and its strategic geography put the disputes on the very centre of the states’ nationwide pursuits. As offered, the disputes are territorial, and the events used historic (principally China) and authorized arguments (Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam) to assist their claims.

All through the years, there have been makes an attempt to lower tensions and resolve the SCS conflicts by bilateral and multilateral agreements. On account of failure within the upkeep of such agreements, the Philippines took their dispute with China to the Everlasting Court docket of Arbitration, one of many UNCLOS dispute settlement mechanism. The Tribunal discovered that the disputed space fell throughout the Philippines EEZ, which made China’s claims legally and traditionally unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, China’s refusal to acknowledge the Tribunal’s jurisdiction and remaining award highlighted the battle of worldwide regulation to resolve the dispute. Nonetheless, this chapter offered that obligatory adherence to the dispute settlement system and the a number of fora are two of the benefits of the UNCLOS. Nevertheless, such are challenged by non-compliance and the shortage of imposing apparatuses worldwide regulation.

Moreover, when negotiations are the popular methodology of settling disputes, such dispute decision ought to undoubtedly have a precedence. Nevertheless, you will need to be sure that this type of mechanism is used correctly to provide voice and safety to smaller states within the worldwide area. Therefore, it supplies a stability to the facility dynamics of the worldwide system, as soon as less-influential states have the choice of resorting to obligatory dispute settlement fora below UNCLOS to resolve conflicts. Furthermore, it was proven that even when an try to settle a dispute by a judicial discussion board fails, it could nonetheless create a big legacy in type of interpretation and clarification, which may result in battle decision inside and with out such authorized settings.


ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and PRC [People’s Republic of China]. 2002. “2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Events within the South China Sea.” Accessed February 12, 2021.

Bader, Jeffrey A. 2014. “The U.S. and China’s 9-Sprint Line: Ending the Ambiguity.” Accessed February 9, 2021.

BBC. 2016. “Why is the South China Sea Contentious?” February 10, 2021.

______. 2017. “South China Sea: Philippines’ Duterte Sends Troops to Unoccupied Islands.”

Brunei’s Ministry of Defence. 2011. “Defence White Paper: Defending the Nation’s Sovereignty. Increasing Roles in Wider Horizons.” Accessed July 19, 2021.

Camba, Alvin. 2018. “Assessing Duterte’s China Funding Drive.” Accessed February 12, 2021.

Churchill, Robin. 2017. “The Normal Dispute Settlement System of the UN Conference of the Regulation of the Sea: Overview, Context and Use.” Ocean Improvement and Worldwide Regulation 48, no. 1: 216–238.

CFR [Council on Foreign Relations]. 2017. “Territorial Disputes in South China Sea”. Accessed November 26, 2021, out there in!/conflict/territorial-disputes-in-the-south-china-sea

CLCS [Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf]. 2009. Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf past 200 Nautical Miles from the Baseline. Submissions to de Fee: Joint Submission by Malaysia and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. Accessed February 26, 2022.

Duterte, Rodrigo. 2020. “President Duterte’s Speech at seventy fifth UN Normal Meeting.”

EIA [US Energy Information Administration]. 2013. “South China Sea.” Accessed February 9, 2021.

Greer, Adam. 2016. “The South China Sea is Actually a Fishery Dispute.” The Diplomat, July 20, 2016.

GRID-Arendal. 2014. “Continental Shelf Programme: Background to UNCLOS.” Accessed February 11, 2021.

IISLL [International Institute for Law of the Sea Studies]. 2021. Worldwide Regulation within the South China Sea. Accessed February 28, 2022.

Kaplan, Robert D. 2015. “Why the South China Sea is so Essential.” Accessed February 10, 2021.

Khoo, Nicholas. 2016. “Manila’s phyrrhc victory: ASEAN in disarray over the South China Sea”. Accessed March 1, 2022.

Klein, Natalie. 2014. “The Effectiveness of the UNCLOS Dispute Settlement Regime: Reaching for the Stars?” In Proceedings of the Annual Assembly (American Society of Worldwide Regulation) 108, 359–364. Cambridge: Cambridge College Press.

Malaysia. 2017. Malaysia Partial Submission to the Fee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf pursuant to Article 76, paragraph 8 of the United Nations on the Regulation of the Sea1982 within the South China Sea. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia.

Nguyen, Hong Thao. 2020. “Prolonged Continental Shelf: A Renewed South China Sea Competitors.” Maritime Points, April 19, 2020.

Nguyen, Lan Ngoc. 2018. “The UNCLOS Dispute Settlement System: What Function Can it Play in Resolving Marine Disputes in Asia?” Asian Journal of Worldwide Regulation 8, no. 1: 91–115.

Nguyen, Thi Lan Anh. 2015. “Origins of the South China Sea Dispute.” In Territorial Disputes within the South China Sea, edited by Jing Huang and Andrew Billon, 15–38. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

PRC [People’s Republic of China]. 2009. CML/17/2009 Submission by the PRC to the UN Fee on the Continental Shelf. New York: United Nations.

______. 2014. Place Paper of the Authorities of the Individuals’s Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction within the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines. Beijing: Individuals’s Republic of China.

Putra, Brama A. 2021. “Comprehending Brunei Darussalam’s Vanishing Claims within the South China Sea: China’s Exertion of Financial Energy and the Affect of Elite Notion.” Cogent Social Sciences7. DOI: 10.1080/23311886.2020.1858563.

Roach, Ashley J. 2014. “Malaysia and Brunei: An Evaluation of their Claims in South China Sea.” CNA Occasional Paper.

Rosen, Mark E. 2014. “Philippine Claims within the South China Sea: A Authorized Evaluation.” CNA Occasional Paper.

Rüland, Jürgen. 2005. “The Nature of Southeast Asian Safety Challenges.” Safety Dialogue 36, no. 4: 545–563.

Singh, Vinai Okay. 2016. “Evaluation of Benefits and Disadvantages of Boards Prescribed Beneath the UNCLOS and State Follow: The Manner Forward for India.” Revista de Direito Internacional 13, 319–336.

Strangio, Sebastian. 2020. “In UN Speech, Duterte Stiffens Philippines’ Stance on the South China Sea.” The Diplomat, September 23, 2020.

The Guardian. 2016. “Philippines to ‘Set Apart’ South China Sea Tribunal Ruling to Keep away from Imposing on Beijing.” December 17, 2016.

______. 2019. “South China Sea: Duterte Warns Beijing of ‘Suicide Missions’ to Defend Disputed Islands.” April 5, 2019.

Tonnesson, Stein. 2000. “Vietnam’s Goal within the South China Sea: Nationwide or Regional Safety?” Up to date Southeast Asia 22, no. 1: 199–220.

United Nations. 1967. United Nations Normal Meeting Twenty-Second Session. New York: United Nations.

______. 1982. “United Nations Conference on the Regulation of the Sea.” Accessed January 31, 2021.

______. 1998. “Oceans and Regulation of the Sea – The United Nations Conference on the Regulation of the Sea – A Historic Perspective.” Accessed February 11, 2021.

______. 2020. “Chronological Lists of Ratifications of, Accessions and Successions to the Conference and Associated Agreements.” Accessed February 11, 2021.

______. 2021. “United Nations – Treaty Assortment – Regulation of the Sea.” Accessed February 11, 2021.

Welch, David A. 2016. The Hague’s South China Sea Ruling: Implications for East Asian Safety. Accessed February 11, 2022.

[1] In Article 76, paragraph 8 of the UNCLOS it’s supplied that info on the boundaries of the continental shelf past 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured shall be submitted by the coastal State to the Fee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf arrange below Annex II on the idea of equitable geographical illustration. Additional, the Fee shall make suggestions to coastal States on issues associated to the institution of the outer limits of their continental shelf and such established limits shall be remaining and binding (United Nations 1982).

[2] UNCLOS provides states the precise to declare EEZs that stretch 200 nautical miles from a continental shoreline or round islands that may be liveable. Within the South China Sea, the appliance of this provision resulted within the overlapping of EEZs of different coastal states. In this type of state of affairs, Article 74 of UNCLOS gives an answer: the demarcation of EEZs between States with reverse or adjoining coasts shall be affected by settlement on the idea of worldwide regulation with a view to obtain an equitable answer (United Nations 1982).

[3] UNCLOS in Article 121 defines an island as a naturally fashioned space of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at excessive tide. It additional supplies that the contiguous zone, the unique financial zone and the continental shelf of an island are decided in accordance with the provisions of this Conference relevant to different land territory. The exception of the latter are rocks which can not maintain human habitation or financial lifetime of their very own and which, due to this fact, haven’t any unique financial zone or continental shelf (United Nations 1982).

[4] Most often, the events concerned had been China and ASEAN. Agreements concerning peaceable coexistence within the area had been tried. Considered one of them was the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of the events within the South China Sea, during which the events reaffirmed their purpose to decide to the rules and functions of the UN and UNCLOS Charters and acknowledged such rules as pointers to the connection amongst states (ASEAN and PRC 2002, 1). It was anticipated that tensions would lower and that the battle would finish if all events had adopted the provisions of the Declaration. Nevertheless, this didn’t occur, because the states continued to press their territorial claims and continued to grab one another’s fishing vessels (Bader 2014).

[5] Specifically, Article 279 of UNCLOS clarifies that ‘peaceable means’ refers to settling any dispute in regards to the interpretation or software of UNCLOS in accordance with Article 2.3 of the Constitution of the United Nations the place disputing events shall search an answer by the means indicated in Article 33, paragraph 1, of the Constitution.

[6] Which below Article 1 of UNCLOS means ‘the seabed and ocean ground and subsoil thereof, past the boundaries of nationwide jurisdiction.’

[7] Up to now, solely 54 of the 168 states events to UNCLOS made such a declaration: China, in 2006, and Malaysia, in 2009, are two of them. Their declarations excluded disputes regarding interpretation or software of articles 15, 74 and 83 referring to sea boundary delimitations, or these involving historic bays or titles, and by non-acceptance of any of the procedures supplied for in Half XV, Part 2 of the Conference with respect to all of the classes of disputes referred to in paragraph 1 (a) (b) and (c) of Article 298 of the Conference (United Nations 2021).

[8] Negotiations failed in sustaining bilateral agreements, such because the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of the Events within the South China Sea on the eighth ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 4 November 2002 (for extra info, see ASEAN and PRC, 2002; Bader 2014; Khoo 2016).

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button