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Beyond Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea

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

This highly informative and up-to-date book brings together expert scholars in law of the sea to explore the legal and geopolitical aspects of the South China Sea disputes and provide an in-depth examination on the prospects of joint development in the South China Sea.
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Chapter 3: The exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon resources in areas of overlapping claims

Tara Davenport


The belief that there are untapped hydrocarbons in the seabed of the South China Sea has been one of the main reasons that the claimants to the Spratly Islands (Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Viet Nam, and Taiwan) have vigorously defended their sovereignty claims over the features in the Spratly Islands. However, exploration and exploitation of such resources has been hindered by the various competing claims to sovereignty and sovereign rights in waters surrounding the Spratly Islands. The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate that international law imposes certain rights and duties in relation to hydrocarbon resources in overlapping claim areas which constrain the conduct of the claimants in their exploration and exploitation of such resources. It argues that under both the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and general international law, States are obliged to co-operate with each other in the management of resources in overlapping claim areas, although the exact nature and extent of such duties of co-operation will depend on the type of overlapping claim. The chapter concludes with an examination of the implications of such duties of co-operation for the South China Sea disputes.

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