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The disagreements among states bordering the South China Sea pose extraordinarily complex legal issues. Sovereignty over small islands that lie at some distance from the continental and insular coasts that surround the sea is contested. So are the maritime entitlements generated by these features. Notably, rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own generate no entitlement to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf beyond a twelve-mile territorial sea, which may be the case for many of the disputed islands. Yet another series of questions relates to the delimitation of overlapping maritime entitlements, including the relative effect to be accorded entitlements generated by these small islands vis-à-vis those generated by the continental and insular coasts that surround the South China Sea.

Quite apart from the legal complexity of the foregoing issues, visualizing the geographic context in which they arise is itself a challenge. To facilitate recognition of differences between types of lines and areas, we present on the next page a map rendered in color (an innovation for the Journal), which has been prepared by Clive Schofield and Andi Arsana of the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security.


International Law | Law


© 2013 American Society of International Law. This article has been published in the Proceedings of the ASIL Annual Meeting and is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use.