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 7: The Arbitral Tribunal’s interpretation of paragraph 3 in Article 121: a first but important step forward

Erik Franckx


International courts and tribunals have so far been persistent in refusing to give a specific content to the enigmatic Article 121, paragraph 3 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, even though many occasions to do just that have presented themselves in the past. They were usually able to side-step this core issue of determining the exact legal nature of a particular maritime feature by relying on the law of maritime delimitation. The Arbitral Tribunal in the case initiated by the Philippines against China, however, was deprived of such an option as the People’s Republic of China had explicitly excluded delimitation matters from compulsory dispute settlement under the Convention. This chapter analyses this first, but important step forward in the clarification of Article 121, paragraph 3. Two specific elements of this clarification will be explored, namely the exact meaning of the term ‘rock’ and the grammatical conjunctions used in that paragraph.

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