UCF Global Perspectives


The Hague Rejects China’s South Sea Claims

Casey Field, Intern, Global Economy

July 15, 2016

On Tuesday, July 12, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague announced that China’s claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis (BBC 1). Because the decision has no enforcement power, China has stated that it will not abide by the verdict (AP 1). The South China Sea extends 1,200 miles from the Chinese mainland and is responsible for one third of global oil shipping, over one-tenth of the global fishing industry and one half of merchant shipping (CNBC). Six governments currently dispute this territory, which also includes part of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (AP 2). After attempts at negotiation over the territory and its resources, the Philippines sought assistance from UNCLOS to discuss China’s “nine-line dash” claims, creation of islands and maritime activities (CNBC). Within the 15-point case decision, UNCLOS claimed that China had obstructed Philippine fishing rights (Reuters).

UNCLOS’ decision is a milestone in international law and has substantial global economic implications due to the levels of trade in the region. If China can drop its historical ties to the waters and cooperate with the respective six governments with claims, potential exists for these waters to be the source of an increase in global trade (AP 2). Rich with resources, fishing stocks and energy assets, the South China Sea currently serves $5 trillion dollars in global trade per year and could positively impact international trade if Beijing agrees to abide by the decision (AP 2).









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