The South China Sea Disputes and Law of the Sea

The South China Sea Disputes and Law of the Sea

NUS Centre for International Law series

Edited by S. Jayakumar, Tommy Koh and Robert Beckman

South China Sea Disputes And Law Of The Sea explores in great detail the application of specific provisions of UNCLOS and how the framework of international law applies to the South China Sea. Offering a comprehensive analysis of the individual topics and their application to the South China Sea region, each chapter of the book provides a substantive and rigorous investigation into the history, development and application of the relevant legal principles. It is written within the global context so that lessons learned from this exercise will have global implications. Contributors include former judges from ITLOS, legal advisors to States who participated in the negotiation and drafting of UNCLOS, as well as outstanding scholars of both law and geography, many of whom have acted as counsel or experts in cases before international court and tribunals.

Chapter 5: Rights and jurisdiction over resources in the South China Sea: UNCLOS and the ‘nine-dash line’

Ted L McDorman

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, law - academic, asian law, maritime law, public international law


In much of the world and for most purposes, a discussion of national rights and jurisdiction over resources in the oceans begins and ends with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Even regarding the historically remote central Arctic Ocean, when global chatter arose about the international legal regime applicable to the resources in these waters, the States with the most direct interest (Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia and the United States) made it clear that UNCLOS was the applicable legal framework. For the South China Sea, all of the relevant States are party to UNCLOS (Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam) and Taiwan has pledged to abide by the Convention and all have adopted national legislation respecting offshore resource jurisdiction. The ocean resource issues in the South China Sea involve, first and foremost, the often hotly contested sovereignty over the insular features in the South China Sea, in particular those of the Spratly archipelago, and the international legal status of the features as either entitled to a 200 nautical miles (nm) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and, where applicable, a continental shelf area beyond 200 nm or only to a 12 nm territorial sea.

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