The South China Sea Arbitration
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The South China Sea Arbitration

The Legal Dimension

Edited by S. Jayakumar, Tommy Koh, Robert Beckman, Tara Davenport and Hao D. Phan

Bringing together leading experts on the law of the sea, this book provides a detailed analysis of the significant aspects, findings and legal reasoning in the high-profile case of the South China Sea Arbitration between the Philippines and China. It examines major issues discussed in the Arbitration including jurisdiction, procedure, maritime entitlement, and the protection of the marine environment. It also explores the implications of the case for the South China Sea disputes and dispute settlement under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
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Chapter 6: Determining high-tide features (or islands) in the South China Sea under Article 121(1): a legal and oceanography perspective

Youna Lyons, Luu Quang Hung and Pavel Tkalich


Identification of those insular coral reef formations that qualify as land areas capable of a sovereignty claim and of generating maritime zones is a critical element of the legal discussion relating to the maritime disputes in the South China Sea. This chapter discusses the determination made by the Arbitral Tribunal. First, the chapter presents the main elements of the Arbitral Tribunal’s reasoning and findings. Second, these findings and the approach of the Arbitral Tribunal are compared with the decision rendered by the International Court of Justice in Nicaragua v Colombia. The third section investigates what it means for a reef to qualify as land territory and which ‘high tide’ should be considered. The fourth section discusses the issue of permanence above the sea of high-tide features. Finally the fifth section proposes an application of the South China Sea Arbitration Final Award to the many other insular geographic formations in the South China Sea, the status of which has not been determined by the Arbitral Tribunal.

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