136 Hyunsoo Kim
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
was signed on
December 10, 1982 to establish a reasonable and comprehensive maritime order.
Despite the lofty goals, some countries have recently stretched the provisions of
UNCLOS to expand their marine resources and territory, ignoring the spirit of the
agreement. In particular, China has unilaterally employed straight baselines along
its coastline, thereby establishing a legal basis for claiming vast maritime zones.
However, many of China’s State practices and laws based on straight baselines are
neither in accordance with international law, nor generally recognized as being
The main objective of this research is to examine and evaluate Chinas straight
baseline regime based not only on UNCLOS, but also on the international law of
the sea. This paper consists of four parts including Introduction and Conclusion.
Part two will provide the background of China’s straight baselines. Part three will
analyze the legal issues surrounding these baselines.
2. Background: Chinas Straight Baselines
A. What is the Straight Baseline?
The territorial sea is a particular domain that allows a coastal State to exercise its
The UNCLOS limits the maximum breadth of any territorial sea to
12 nautical miles.
In the determination of the breadth of a States territorial sea,
it is necessary to establish the point along the coast from which the outer limits
of the territorial sea is to be measured. Here, the baseline is the ground for this
A baseline is a line from which outer limits of the territorial sea,
1 U.N.T.S. 1833. The UNCLOS was entered into force in 1994 through the joint agreement by 150 member States. See
the full text of the UNCLOS, available at http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_overview_
convention.htm (last visited on Feb. 5, 2013).
2 For details, see R. CHURCHILL & A. LOWE, THE LAW OF THE SEA 71-75 (1999); S. Sharma, Territorial Sea, 11 ENCYCLOPEDIA
OF PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW 328-333 (R. Bernhardt ed., 1989).
3 UNCLOS art. 3.
4 Id. art.5. For details on the baseline, see P.BEAZLEY, MARITIME LIMTS AND BASELINES (1987); I. BROWNLIE, PRINCIPLES OF
PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW 176 (2008); M. EVANS, INTERNATIONAL LAW 626 (2006); L. Alexander, Baseline Delimitation
and Maritime Boundaries, 23 VA. J. INTL L. 503-536 (1983); R. Hodgson & R. Smith, The Informal Single Negotiating