The South China Sea Arbitration Decision and a Plan for Peaceful Resolution of the Disputes

Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce, Vol. 47, No. 4, Pp. 451-77 (2016)

University of Washington School of Law Research Paper No. 2017-09

28 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2017  

Thomas J. Schoenbaum

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2016

Abstract

After the Philippines contested Chinese claims and actions in the South China Sea, a five-man panel of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 handed down a judgment that is surely the most important set of jurisprudential rulings in the modern history of the international law of the sea. The tribunal's judgment provides convincing interpretations of many UNCLOS articles that are important, not only in the context of the South China Sea, but generally in other maritime areas as well. The tribunal's judgment enhances freedom of navigation in ocean areas and provides guidelines for enforcing international law to protect the marine environment.

But the tribunal's judgment is unlikely to have much effect with regard to settlement of the South China Sea disputes. Although China technically is bound by the judgments of the tribunal, China did not participate in the proceeding and will never expressly affirm the rulings' correctness. The paper puts forth a three-point plan to allow China to save face in this controversy. It is hoped that taking these steps the tribunal's important rulings may be accepted for what they areā€”the basis for a settlement of the South China Sea controversy.

Keywords: international arbitration, dispute resolution, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), international law, nine-dash line, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), coastal states, territorial seas

Suggested Citation

Schoenbaum, Thomas J., The South China Sea Arbitration Decision and a Plan for Peaceful Resolution of the Disputes (October 1, 2016). Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce, Vol. 47, No. 4, Pp. 451-77 (2016); University of Washington School of Law Research Paper No. 2017-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2931150 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2931150

Thomas J. Schoenbaum (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

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