China’s “ U-Shaped Line ” Claim in the South China Sea: Any Validity Under International Law?
Ocean Development & International Law 43:1, 1-17 (2012)
The recent claim of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter the PRC or China) to the “U-shaped line” in the South China Sea, enclosing its claimed islands and their surrounding waters, has given rise to a number of objections and protests on the part of the neighboring states on the South China Sea. Strictly speaking it is not a line, but a series of nine broken or dotted lines enclosing vast sea areas involving large and small insular formations to which the PRC has a territorial claim. This extraordinary claim, allegedly based on historic title, has also raised concerns among international lawyers.
One wonders if it is possible or permissible at all to claim a sea area encircled by a series of dotted or broken lines instead of an unbroken line. Dotted or broken lines leave gaps between them, which create a serious question of how those sea areas in the gaps can validly be claimed to be delimited, provided those broken lines are clearly delimited at all. What the PRC seems to be saying is that the enclosed sea areas and insular formations have historically been its possessions without protest from foreign states over the years.
This brief article is an attempt to provide a critical international legal evaluation of the Chinese claim. In the following sections, the relevant claims will be reviewed: when the U-shaped line claim was first raised and how other states, especially neighboring states, reacted; if the claim is made as a claim of historical right, as indeed it is by the PRC, this will be tested as to whether it is a legitimate instance of state practice in international law; and if the claim is made in the interest of the claimant’s national interest, what can be said of such national interest in the formation of international law.
Read the article in full text at Chinas-“U-Shaped-Line”-Claim-in-the-South-China-Sea-Any-Validity-Under-International-Law [PDF]