International law relating to islands has recently been the subject of much analysis following the 2016 South China Sea arbitration (Philippines v China) case. While following the decision the distinction between islands and rocks under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has become the focus of legal analysis, it is not the only body of international law that has implications for islands. A more complete list includes issues associated with territoriality, islands as independent States, archipelagic States, islands and maritime boundary delimitation, and the legal consequences of climate change for islands. This paper addresses issues associated with international law, territoriality, and islands. An extensive body of international law addresses title to territory including decisions of the International Court of Justice. Since 2002 there have been cases before international courts and tribunals involving Southeast Asian states, including Singapore, which relate to islands. All of these cases, especially the more recent, have implications for the resolution of South China Sea island territorial disputes, and also current East Asian island territorial disputes involving China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. This paper will review the relevant international law and these recent developments.
About the Speaker
Donald Robert Rothwell is Professor of International Law at the ANU College of Law, Australian National University where he has taught since July 2006. His research has a specific focus on law of the sea, international polar law, and implementation of international law within Australia as reflected in 23 books, and over 200 articles, book chapters and notes in international and Australian publications. Rothwell’s recent authored, co-authored or edited books include International Law in Australia 3rd (Thomson Reuters, 2017) edited with Crawford; and The International Law of the Sea 2nd (Bloomsbury, 2016) with Stephens. Major career works include The Polar Regions and the Development of International Law (CUP, 1996), and International Law: Cases and Materials with Australian Perspectives 3rd (CUP: IN PRESS) with Kaye, Akhtarkhavari, Davis and Saunders. Rothwell is also Co-Editor of the Australian Year Book of International Law and Editor-in-Chief of the Brill Research Perspectives in Law of the Sea.
Since 2012 he has been Rapporteur of the International Law Association (ILA) Committee on ‘Baselines under the International Law of the Sea’. He has taught a range of courses including Law of the Sea, International Dispute Resolution, International Law and Use of Armed Force, International Humanitarian Law, Military Operations Law, and Public International Law. Rothwell was previously Challis Professor of International Law and Director of the Sydney Centre for International and Global Law, University of Sydney (2004-2006), where he had taught since 1988. He has acted as a consultant or been a member of expert groups for UNEP, UNDP, IUCN, the Australian Government, and acted as advisor to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). In 2012 Rothwell was appointed an inaugural ANU Public Policy Fellow, and in 2015 elected as a Fellow to the Australian Academy of Law.
He is a regular media commentator on international law issues and has written over 100 opinion comments, including for all of the major daily newspapers in Australia and ABC Online ‘The Drum. His media interviews have included ABC TV 7.30, ABC Radio ‘AM’ and ‘PM’, ABC Radio National ‘Breakfast’, ABC News 24, Al Jazerra (TV), BBC World (TV), and the Voice of America.