The UNCLOS and the US-China Hegemonic Competition over the South China Sea

Author:Kamrul Hossain
Position:Senior Researcher at the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law in the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland, Finland
Pages:107-133
SUMMARY

The South China Sea is a semi-enclosed sea with a complex set of territorial claims by a number of Southeast Asian nations and China being the dominant claimant country. The United States is not a party to such claims. However, the US has great concerns pertaining to peace and stability of the region as far as freedom of navigation in the SCS is concerned, which has significant repercussions for... (see full summary)

 
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Sino-US Competition on the SCS 107
VI JEAIL 1 (2013)
Kamrul Hossain
The South China Sea is a semi-enclosed sea with a complex set of territorial
claims by a number of Southeast Asian nations and China being the dominant
claimant country. The United States is not a party to such claims. However,
the US has great concerns pertaining to peace and stability of the region as
far as freedom of navigation in the SCS is concerned, which has significant
repercussions for its strategic interests. In addition to the utilization of the SCS
as an important international trade route, the US is also committed to protect
the interests of its allies in the region, as well as those of its companies involved
in offshore hydrocarbon activities. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist
attack, the dynamics of a new world order push the US to strengthen its presence
in the region in order to combat any security threats against its interests. This
article investigates China-US relations in the SCS and highlights the law of
the sea prescriptions that facilitate the understanding of the legal nature of the
tensions between China and the US.
Keywords
UNCLOS, South China Sea, US-China Conlict, U-shaped Line, Strategic
Partner, Security Interest
The UNCLOS and
the US-China Hegemonic
Competition over
the South China Sea
Senior Researcher at the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law in the Arctic Centre of the
University of Lapland, Finland. LL.B. (Dhaka), LL.M. (Helsinki/Aix-Marseille-III), LL.D. (Lapland). The author
may be contacted at: khossain@ulapland.fi / Address: PO Box 122, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Fin-96101
Rovaniemi, Finland.
2013-05-27 󱹙󲻹 3:49:51
108 K. Hossain
I. Introduction
Geopolitical and maritime interests in and around the South China Sea (󼚬SCS󼚭)
have created a complex set of claims concerning rights, obligations and jurisdiction
over the sea. The potential for hydrocarbon resources, importance in maritime
     
well as strategic interests pertaining to balance of power, are the driving forces that
mark the significance of these dynamics. In particular, territorial claims over the
SCS are among the most contested ones in the whole world. By nature, the SCS is a
semi-enclosed sea rich in diverse living and non-living resources. It is located in the
south of China, bordering Vietnam and Malaysia in the west; Brunei, Malaysia, and
Indonesia in the south; the Philippines in the east; and Taiwan in the north. Six of

territorial claims and contestations over the SCS.
1
While geographically the US is not a part of these territorial disputes, it still has
significant maritime interests in the SCS in terms of both freedom of navigation
and security for maritime trade and transportation. For the US, the SCS, because
       
the south, also promotes strategic cooperation - both military and economic - with
the nations in the region. In addition, there are other elements directly linked to
US interests in the SCS. These include the protection of the interests of American
companies involved in hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities; the US
is strategically present in the region in order to pre-emptively combats any potential
security threats against its interests,
2
as well as those of its allies. These factors have
propelled the US to engage itself in the tensions surrounding the SCS disputes.
Primarily, therefore, the objective of this research is to investigate the on-going
competition between the two hegemonic powers—the US and China—over the SCS
within the limited context of the law of the sea. It is important to note that in the
SCS region, geopolitical dynamics, while motivated by numerous facts, are largely
1 J. Burgess, The Politics of the South China Sea: Territoriality and International Law, 34 SECURITY DIALOGUE 8 (2003).
This complexity is grounded on a number of reasons: First, because of the number of parties involved in the disputes
either directly or indirectly; second because of its geo-political and strategic importance; and third because of its
economic resource potential. See L. Bautista, Thinking Outside the Box: The South China Sea Issue and the United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Options, Limitations and Prospects), 81 PHILIPPINE L. J. 707 (2006).
2 After the September 11 attacks that destroyed the twin tower in the US, the dynamics of a new world order push
the US to strengthen its presence in the region in order to act pre-emptively to combat security threats. See “State
of Union” address delivered by the President Bush, Jan. 28, 2002, available at http://whitehouse.georgewbush.org/
news/2003/012803-SOTU.asp (last visited on Apr. 6, 2013).
2013-05-27 󱹙󲻹 3:49:51

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