China and the South China Sea

From Leo W.:

This article (published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University) was written by Professor Robert Beckman of the Faculty of Law of the National University of Singapore. He makes the important point that the current worries and fears of ASEAN and some states outside the region over China’s claim over the South China Sea are largely attributable to the Chinese note verbale sent to the UN Secretary General in May 2009. The ambiguous wording of China in the document such as use of the term “adjacent sea” and the unexplained map attached to it spurred the fierce reactions of states both in the region and the West. This culminated in Hilary Clinton’s statement that the United States had a “national interest” in the South China Sea.

What makes this article unique is that, by offering his own opinions of how the disputes in the South China Sea should be reconciled, the author presents the independent perspective of a legal expert who has a deep understanding of international law and its limits. Not biased by widely shared misunderstandings in media reports about the South China Sea, the author makes an important point that sovereignty disputes cannot be solved by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The UNCLOS can only provide guidance to coastal states about how to set their sea territory and economic zone limits and how the rights over continental shelves should be regulated. The law does not cover claims in sovereignty disputes. This obvious limit, however, has often been neglected by journalists.  This article provides a good starting point for people who would like to know more about this over-reported issue.


One thought on “China and the South China Sea

  1. Elaine Yin.Yang

    In my opinion, the confrontation between China and other South China Sea countries now could be a supporting example to explain why regional organization should exist. Generally speaking, China is much more powerful than any of other South China Sea countries, and it is quite difficult for those countries to have an equal bargain with China, taken no account of the US’s support to any side. However, when these southeast-Asian countries groups as ASEAN, and when the ASEAN countries reach a common goal, they do have larger bargain power now, so that in such a confrontation with China, regarding to the South China Sea conflict.


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