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 6: Do the coastal states in the South China Sea have a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles?

Alex Oude Elferink

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


The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea recognizes two bases of continental shelf entitlement: up to a distance of 200 nautical miles (nm) or to the outer edge of the continental margin, where the margin extends beyond that distance. The distance of the mainland coast of Viet Nam to the islands of Borneo and Palawan is over 500 nm and that to Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, is well over 600 nm. The continental margin in the South China Sea extends beyond 200 nm. These facts would seem to indicate that there can be no doubt about a positive answer to the question contained in the title of this chapter. However, it obviously is not that simple. This is due to the presence of a number of island groups in the South China Sea: the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands, and the features on Scarborough Reef. International law indicates that islands in principle have the same entitlement to a continental shelf as continental coasts.

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