Breathtaking but counterproductive: the South China Sea arbitration award

14 July 2016

Anthony Bergin wrote here on The Strategist that The Hague award in The Philippines v China arbitration case is a heavy defeat for Beijing. The award is breathtaking in its overwhelming support for the Philippines’s position, and comes as a surprise to many seasoned international maritime law experts. I’ll just raise two such surprises.

First, although many experts expected the Tribunal to make general statements on China’s so-called ‘nine-dash line’, few predicted a straightforward verdict declaring the line invalid when it comes to China’s historical rights to resources.

Second, although many expected the Tribunal to rule on the status of some of the maritime features in the Spratly Islands, very few believed that Itu Aba (Taiping Island), the largest naturally formed feature in the South China Sea, would be ruled as a mere ‘rock’ rather than a fully-fledged ‘island.’ An ‘island’ is entitled to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and a continental shelf; a ‘rock’ only gets a territorial sea.

Read Breathtaking but counterproductive: the South China Sea arbitration award by Feng Zhang, published in Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

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