18 August 2016
Despite the old adage that ‘good fences make good neighbours’, sometimes it is impossible, for a variety of reasons, to build good ‘fences’ in the sea. This is certainly the case in the South China Sea, where territorial claims are complicated by geography.
While the recent ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague on the dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea has theoretically ‘cleared the air’ on some aspects of maritime boundary-making, in practical terms it may not have helped the situation.
The surprising feature of the ruling was the judgment that there are no ‘fully entitled’ islands in the Spratly group. There are numerous ramifications of this judgment, including for the status of other islands in the South China Sea. Islands in both the Paracel and Pratas groups are much larger than in the Spratlys and likely to satisfy the criteria to be regarded as ‘fully entitled’ islands. But maritime boundaries near the Paracels cannot be defined while sovereignty over this group is disputed between China and Vietnam.
… Sam Bateman is an Advisor in the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 23/08/2016