Spratly Islands Dispute in the South China Sea: Potential Solutions

Author:Md. Monjur Hasan - He Jian
Position:Ph.D. Fellow at the Ocean University of China School of Law. LL.B. (Honors)/LL.M. (Univ. of Rajshahi, Bangladesh). ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1367-6213. This research was supported by China Scholarship Council (CSC) (Grant number 2016GXY055). Much gratitude is extended to the China Scholarship Council for offering such an opportunity to...
Pages:145-168
SUMMARY

The Spratly Islands dispute is an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei, concerning territorial sovereignty over the Spratly Islands. This conflicting territorial claim between these coastal parties is raising tensions in Asia, so the settlement of this dispute is of key importance for a peaceful atmosphere in the area. The dispute is... (see full summary)

 
FREE EXCERPT
Md. Monjur Hasan
& He Jian
∗∗
The Spratly Islands dispute is an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Taiwan,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei, concerning territorial sovereignty
  
is raising tensions in Asia, so the settlement of this dispute is of key importance for
       
an international geo-strategic, economic, political and legal matter. After a 1988
armed conflict between Vietnamese and Chinese forces, the claimants have looked
for approaches to solve the conflict peacefully through different informal endeavors,
but due to the complexity of the dispute there are a number of barriers to reaching a
permanent settlement. This study puts forward some potential approaches for resolving
the dispute, considering its complex nature, by evaluating the six parties competing
claims and analyzing the legal soundness of their claims.
Keywords
Spratly Island, South China Sea, Territorial Dispute, Maritime Claims
Spratly Islands Dispute
in the South China Sea:
Potential Solutions
Ph.D. Fellow at the Ocean University of China School of Law. LL.B. (Honors)/ LL.M. (Univ. of Rajshahi, Bangladesh).
ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1367-6213. This research was supported by China Scholarship Council (CSC) (Grant
number 2016GXY055). Much gratitude is extended to the China Scholarship Council for offering such an opportunity
to conduct this research. The author may be contacted at: monju.law10@gmail.com/Address: School of Law, Ocean
University of China, 238 Songling Road, Laoshan, Qingdao 266100, Shandong, P.R China.
∗∗ Senior Fellow at The Marine Development Studies Institute of the Ocean University of China; Professor, School of Law
at the Ocean University of China. Ph.D. (Xiangtan Univ., China). The author may be contacted at: hj1975xtu@126.
com/Address: School of Law, Ocean University of China, 238 Songling Road, Laoshan, Qingdao 266100, Shandong,
P.R China.
J. EAST ASIA & INTL L. Vol. 12/No.1 (2019); 145-168
Publication type : Research Article
Section : Student Contribution
DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.14330/jeail.2019.12.1.08
146 Monjur Hasan & He Jian
I. Introduction
The dispute of the Spratly Island features is a longstanding issue among the six
littoral coastal parties (China, Taiwan, Vietnam, The Philippines, Malaysia and
Brunei) around the South China Sea. Due to its complex nature, the dispute has been
unresolved for a great many years. The Spratly features are a group of islands, islets
and cays, including more than 100 reefs and sometimes classified in submerged
old atolls, in the South China Sea.
1
The archipelago is located off the coasts of the
Philippines, Malaysia, and southern Vietnam. It was named after British whaling
captain Richard Spratly, who sighted Spratly Island in 1843.
2
The islands contain less
than 2 km
2
(490 acres) of naturally occurring land, spreading over an area of more
than 425,000 km
2
(164,000 sq mi). According to the provision of the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), only forty of the Spratly features
are considered islands, while the remaining features of the archipelago are either
submerged under water or are above water only during low tide.
3
The Spratly features are the most important archipelagos in the South China
    
location on strategic shipping routes. The islands have no indigenous inhabitants, but
      
4
These Island features are thus very important to the claimants in their attempts
to establish international maritime boundaries in the South China Sea because
sovereignty over these features will entitle the adjacent countries to an extended
continental shelf. Although some of the islands have civilian settlements, most of the
Spratly features are used for military purposes by China, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Taiwan, and Vietnam. Brunei has only claimed an exclusive economic zone in the
south eastern part of the Spratly features, Louisa Reef, which is uninhabited. No
feature of the Spratly is used for military purpose by Brunei.
China, Taiwan, and Vietnam all claim the whole of the Spratly island group.
The Philippines claims a number of the features that are included under its Kalayaan
1 See South China Sea, between the Philippines, Borneo, Vietnam, and China, WWF, available at https://www.
worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/im0148 (last visited on Mar. 4, 2019).
2 See Malaysia’s Claim in the Spratlys, BORNEO POST (Sabah), Aug. 23, 2015, available at https://www.pressreader.com/
malaysia/the-borneo-post-sabah/20150823/281835757446751 (last visited on Mar. 4, 2019).
3 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Signed on 10 December 1982; entered into force on 16 November
1994).
4 N. Owen & C. Schofield, Disputed South China Sea hydrocarbons in perspective, 36 MARINE POLY. 809-22
(2012).

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