Philippines v. China

Vietnam Benefits from the South China Sea Arbitration

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Although Vietnam did not intercede in the July 12 Philippines-China arbitration, nonetheless it now finds itself on the right side of the facts and the law in its disputes with China over maritime rights in the South China Sea. The disputes in the South China Sea concern two sets of issues. The tribunal did not have legal competence to decide the first set, which covers questions of ownership over the islands that dot the seascape. These include the Paracel Islands, occupied by China, but claimed by Vietnam, as well as the Spratly Islands that were the subject of the arbitration.… Read More »Vietnam Benefits from the South China Sea Arbitration

The Award Decision in the Philippines-China Arbitration Case: A Perspective from Malaysia

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In the last decade, many countries in Southeast Asia have formulated new policies in response to the changing strategic environment shaped by the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific, including in the South China Sea. In particular, the final award in the arbitration proceedings in The Hague on July 12, 2016, marked a historical event that has new and major implications for the Asia-Pacific. Despite the importance of the recent ruling, however, Malaysia’s approach to the South China Sea dispute, as outlined below, has remained constant. As a pivotal, nonaligned country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with… Read More »The Award Decision in the Philippines-China Arbitration Case: A Perspective from Malaysia

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The Role and Use of International Law in the South China Sea Disputes

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  While the role of international law, including the law of the sea, is integral to understanding how the events in the South China Sea unfold, there are two dominant strands of thought that capture current thinking but limit our understanding of how the law functions within and between the states in the area.  These two legal narratives intersect between the poles of justice, power, and order in maritime affairs, and significantly hinder analytical assessment of how the law works in the maritime domain and may be used as a diplomatic tool to solve regional tensions.  The first strand views law as… Read More »The Role and Use of International Law in the South China Sea Disputes

Forecasting the South China Sea Arbitration Merits Award

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Prediction is difficult—especially about the future. Niels Bohr’s words ring true when it comes to the case brought by the Philippines against the People’s Republic of China over their differences in the South China Sea. It is with caution, then, that this analysis forecasts the minimum findings likely to be reached by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in its decision on the merits in this case under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The PCA decision in the jurisdictional phase of the proceedings, delivered last year, was refreshing in its straightforward… Read More »Forecasting the South China Sea Arbitration Merits Award

Whither the Honest Broker? Indonesia and the South China Sea

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The incursion on March 19–20, 2016, by two armed China Coast Guard ships into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 4.34 kilometers off the Natuna Islands, sparked tensions on a new front in the South China Sea. The incident has again raised the question of where Indonesia stands on the disputes—both as a potential party and as a leader within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The incident began when a patrol boat from the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) seized a 300-metric-ton Chinese fishing boat, the Kway Fey 10078, and arrested its eight crew members for… Read More »Whither the Honest Broker? Indonesia and the South China Sea

The U.S.-China Battle in the Post-Arbitration South China Sea: Diverging and Converging Interests

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One incident after another has played out across the stage of the South China Sea since 2009, the year Malaysia and Vietnam filed a joint submission on the limits of their continental shelf claims with a UN commission. The tension in the South China Sea further escalated in January 2013, when the Philippines initiated an arbitration proceeding against China under the dispute resolution terms of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Since then, land reclamation activities and protests in response, the legal battle between China and the Philippines, a series of U.S. freedom of navigation… Read More »The U.S.-China Battle in the Post-Arbitration South China Sea: Diverging and Converging Interests

Voices: The Philippines-China Arbitration Decision

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Over the coming days, MAP will host a number of short expert commentaries assessing the merits award on fifteen claims the Philippines brought against China before an arbitration tribunal, as well as the implications of the award’s decisions for other disputes, in the South China Sea and elsewhere. Download the commentaries as a pdf here. July 27, 2016 Sumathy Permal, Senior Researcher at the Maritime Institute of Malaysia, provides these thoughts: “The Philippines case against China is an effort provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which allows parties to institute compulsory dispute resolution procedures… Read More »Voices: The Philippines-China Arbitration Decision

How to Make China Comply with the Tribunal Award

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The arbitral tribunal award of July 12 has delivered major benefits to the Philippines. Of fifteen claims submitted to the tribunal, fourteen were affirmed in full while only one was partially rejected. The judgment provides favorable guidance on some important points: It restores international justice in the interpretation and application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The award finds that claims of historic rights to natural resources cannot displace the legal status of maritime institutions created by UNCLOS, such as exclusive economic zones (EEZ) or continental shelves. Unilateral political actions cannot supplant agreements approved… Read More »How to Make China Comply with the Tribunal Award