The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and its relevance to maritime disputes in the South China Sea
Donald R. Rothwell
Professor of International Law, College of Law, Australian National University
While the Philippines [Annex VII Arbitration] application raises a number of issues with respect to China’s claim to both land and maritime features in the South China Sea, it has been drafted in order to avoid questions of territorial sovereignty and also historic title. Ultimately, however, this will be a threshold issue for the Arbitral Tribunal to determine. If the Tribunal does come to the view that it retains jurisdiction, then its determination of the Philippines claim would be the first by an international court or tribunal of the disputed law of the sea issues that exist in the South China Sea. In that respect the judgment would have implications for a number of the other disputes that exist in the region for which China’s claims are central, and has the potential to bring clarity to some of the legal issues, especially those with respect to the ability of certain maritime features to generate maritime zones under the UNCLOS. Such an outcome would be of great benefit in terms of bringing some ongoing certainty to the interpretation and application of the UNCLOS in the South China Sea.
Read the full text at http://nsc.anu.edu.au/documents/occasional-5-brief-3.pdf