Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Can China Adversely Possess and Militarize Islands of the South China Sea?

Lauren Richards, Vol. 37 Associate Editor

China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea threatens the right of innocent passage by States and, therefore, may pose a threat to international law.[1] The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) establishes a 200-mile continental shelf beyond the coastal State.[2] This entitles the coastal State to an additional 200 miles beyond the border of its territorial sea, which extends 12 miles from the coastal State.[3] In the territorial sea and continental shelf, all States have a right of continuous, expeditious, and innocent passage.[4] China claims a significant portion of the territory of the South China Sea as its own over the protestation of several other States in the region.[5] As a result of recent militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea, China is potentially threatening the right of passage of these States, and others. Continue reading

Lack of a legal framework regarding island building in the South China Sea

Daniel Mooney, Vol. 37 Associate Editor

Over the past few years the Chinese government has rapidly undertaken widespread land reclamation and construction in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. In general, the island building consists of converting formerly submerged reefs into artificial islands and increasing their size in order to suit specific needs. Once built, the islands are then converted into civilian or military outposts such as ports or airstrips. [i] China is one of many countries that have engaged in island building in the Spratly Islands, however the scope and speed of Chinese activities is largely unprecedented.[ii] Continue reading

South China or West Philippine Sea? United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and International Arbitration

Sam Fitzpatrick, Vol. 36 Associate Editor

On January 23, 2013, the Republic of the Philippines initiated binding arbitration in the Permanent Court of Arbitration after exhausting diplomatic and political remedies to resolve its dispute with China over the South China Sea.[1]  The Philippine’s memorial requested that the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in accordance with Annex VII of UNCLOS as administered by the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), arbitrate a dispute of maritime rights between the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China.[2]  Specifically, the Philippines requested that the court determine the boundary between China’s historic “nine dash” claim to exclusive control over the islands and water in the South China Sea and the 200 mile exclusive economic zone off the coast of the Philippines.[3]  The overlap between these maritime claims has caused considerable and increasing diplomatic tension and confrontations between Philippine and Chinese naval vessels and fishermen over the past 20 years.[4] Continue reading