Building a Normative Order in the South China Sea
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Building a Normative Order in the South China Sea

Evolving Disputes, Expanding Options

Edited by Truong T. Tran, John B. Welfield and Thuy T. Le

The South China Sea, where a number of great powers and regional players contend for influence, has emerged as one of the most potentially explosive regions in the world today. What can be done to reduce the possibility of conflict, solve the outstanding territorial problems, and harness the potential of the sea to promote regional development, environmental sustainability and security? This book, with contributions from leading authorities in China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, Singapore and the United States, seeks to illuminate these questions.
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Chapter 13: Different strokes for different folks: a second look at UNCLOS Part XV dispute settlement mechanisms and the South China Sea disputes

Jay Batongbacal


The past decade has witnessed a marked rise and fall in tensions in the South China Sea due to recent adjustments in maritime policy among the key players in the territorial and maritime disputes. Competing claims to territory and jurisdictions manifest more frequently as actual incidents at sea, prompting at least one claimant to resort to international dispute settlement proceedings for the first time in the history of the South China Sea disputes. Emergent practice with respect to the interpretation and application of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), notably those concerning maritime zones, creates opportunities for more concrete and consistent determination of State rights and entitlements as a matter of law. Thus, while actual incidents naturally raise diplomatic tensions, they also provide opportunities for invoking the array of non-binding and binding dispute settlement mechanisms included in Part XV of the UNCLOS. This chapter reviews trends in the manifestations of the South China Sea disputes and the possible application of Part XV dispute settlement mechanisms to each. This will help identify and clarify options for future state actions, either individually or collectively, in managing and eventually resolving these disputes.

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