NUS Centre for International Law series
Edited by S. Jayakumar, Tommy Koh and Robert Beckman
Chapter 5: Rights and jurisdiction over resources in the South China Sea: UNCLOS and the ‘nine-dash line’
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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