- NUS Centre for International Law series
Edited by S. Jayakumar, Tommy Koh and Robert Beckman
Chapter 2: Defining the ‘boundary’ between land and sea: territorial sea baselines in the South China Sea
Baselines along the coast define the land/sea interface. Ascertaining the location of this ‘boundary’ between land and sea has crucial implications with respect to maritime jurisdiction. This is the case because while the longstanding legal maxim that ‘the land dominates the sea’ prevails, it has also been observed that ‘it dominates it by the intermediary of the coastal front’, that is, through baselines along the coast. What are traditionally termed ‘territorial sea baselines’ provide specific expression to the concept of coastal front. Such baselines, despite their name, are relevant to the definition of all maritime zones. This is because they provide the ‘starting line’ for the measurement of the limits of maritime claims (see Figure 2.1). In this context it is worth emphasising that the determination of baselines is necessarily a technical as well as legal endeavour.
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