Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources
NUS Centre for International Law series
Edited by Robert Beckman, Ian Townsend-Gault, Clive Schofield, Tara Davenport and Leonardo Bernard
Chapter 1: What’s at stake in the South China Sea? Geographical and geopolitical considerations
The South China Sea ranks among the most geographically and geopolitically complex ocean spaces in the world. It certainly appears to have been one of its most vigorously contested, featuring multiple, longstanding and competing territorial and maritime jurisdictional claims. The objective of this chapter is to provide the geographical and geopolitical background to the frequently conflicting national maritime claims made by the South China Sea littoral States. This exercise is designed to provide the necessary contextual backdrop to considerations of the application of maritime joint development mechanisms and/or other provisional arrangements of a practical nature in the South China Sea. With this in mind, key characteristics of the coastal geography of the South China Sea are outlined, notably the implications of its semi-enclosed nature and the baselines that have been defined along its coasts. The insular features of the South China Sea, many of which are subject to conflicting sovereignty claims, are then examined with particular reference to their potential maritime claims and role in the delimitation of maritime boundaries. The chapter then outlines the maritime jurisdictional claims of the South China Sea coastal States, including existing maritime boundary agreements and maritime joint development zones, as well as unilateral and historical maritime claims.
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