Maritime Territorial Disputes in South China Sea
What is Maritime Territorial Disputes ?
A Maritime territorial dispute is a disagreement over the possession/control of land/Sea between two or more territorial entities or over the possession or control of land/sea, usually between a new state and the occupying power.
Maritime Territorial Disputes in South China Sea :
- China’s maritime disputes span centuries. The tug-of-war over sovereignty of the Diaoyu/Senkakus in the East China Sea can be traced to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, while Japan’s defeat in World War II and Cold War geopolitics added complexity to claims over the islands.
- The fight over overlapping exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea has an equally complex chronology of events steeped in the turmoil of Southeast Asian history.
- Globalization—including extensive free trade pacts between claimants—and recent developments like the U.S. “pivot” to Asia have further connected the two disputes.
- As China’s economic ascent facilitates growing military capabilities and assertiveness in both seas, other regional players are also experiencing their own rise in nationalism and military capability, and have exhibited greater willingness to stake territorial claims.
More details on Maritime Territorial Disputes in South China Sea :
- In the South China Sea, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam have sovereignty claims to some or all of the islands in the Spratly Islands(The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea. The archipelago lies off the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia, and southern Vietnam. Named after the 19th-century British whaling captain Richard Spratly who sighted Spratly Island in 1843, the islands contain approximately 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi) of land area spread over a vast area of more than 425,000 km2 (164,000 sq mi)),while Brunei’s EEZ projection includes one or two reefs in the Spratly Islands. China, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands.
- All the states bordering the South China Sea claim an EEZ measured from the baselines along their mainland coasts or, in the case of the Philippines and Indonesia, from archipelagic baselines.
- It is generally agreed that the archipelagic baselines employed by Indonesia and the Philippines around their main archipelago are consistent with UNCLOS (The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).
- Although some of the straight baselines used by China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam may be of questionable legality and may have an impact on the areas subject to the regimes of internal waters and territorial sea, they will have a minimal impact on the outer limit of the EEZ claims measured from those baselines.
- Therefore, the questionable use of straight baselines is relatively unimportant in identifying the areas of overlapping maritime claims.
- None of the Claimants have issued charts or coordinates of the baselines of the islands from which they measure the territorial sea, as required by Article 16 of UNCLOS. They also have not clarified which low-tide elevations can be used as basepoints because they are located within the 12 M territorial seas of an island.
- China has issued straight baselines around the Paracel Islands (‘Xisha Islands’ in Chinese), but such baselines are not consistent with UNCLOS because only ‘archipelagic States’ (An archipelagic state is any internationally recognized state or country that comprises a series of islands that form an archipelago. The term is defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in order to define what borders such states should be allowed to claim) can draw straight baselines around mid-ocean archipelagos.
- None of the States bordering the South China Sea have issued official charts or lists of geographic coordinates showing the outer limit lines of their EEZs claimed from their mainland.
- However, the outer limits of the EEZ claims of Malaysia and Vietnam are shown on the maps contained in their submissions to the CLCS, together (interestingly) with the EEZ limits of the Philippines.
- Several of the states bordering the South China Sea are adjacent to each other and agreements will be required to clarify their adjacent EEZ boundaries. Brunei is reported to have worked out their adjacent boundaries with Malaysia in an exchange of letters, and China and Vietnam have reached a partial boundary agreement in the Gulf of Tonkin.
- The adjacent boundary between Malaysia and the Philippines is especially challenging because of the historic sovereignty claim of the Philippines to the Malaysian State of Sabah.
- Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
- There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands.
- The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of suspected crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea; and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.