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The Third International Workshop on SCS

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Booklet of The Third International Workshop "The South China Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development

The South China Sea will remain a significant foreign policy issue for the United States for the foreseeable future. U.S. interests in upholding freedom of navigation and international norms, in opposing assertive behavior to settle conflicting claims, in supporting ASEAN’s cohesion, and in implementing a geographically distributed, resilient and sustainable force posture in Asia, converge in the South China Sea.  Secretary of State Clinton has repeatedly tied the South China Sea to a planned post-Afghanistan pivot in U.S. foreign policy to the “Asia – Pacific,” now redefined to stretch from the India into the Pacific.  In this new American “mental map,” the South China Sea is a hinge linking East and South Asia.  In retrospect, it took two unpredictable events - the 2001 terrorists attacks on the U.S. and China’s decision a decade ago to temporarily shelve the South China Sea as a contentious issue as it sought to court Southeast Asia - to divert American attention from this critical trade route.  Among the most challenging issues will be working with China and ASEAN states to encourage a revision of China’s current claims in accordance with established principles of international law.

The paper looks at developments affecting security in the South China Sea prior to and after the adoption of the Guidelines to Implement the Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea on July 20, 2011. The first part of the paper provides a comparative assessment of China’s aggressive assertiveness in relations with the Philippines and Vietnam and their responses prior to the adoption of the Guidelines. The second part of the paper assesses the significance of the Guidelines to Implement the DOC on security in the South China Sea. Part three reviews developments after the Guidelines were adopted with a focus on China’s bilateral relations with the Philippines and Vietnam and Sino-Indian relations. The paper concludes by arguing that bilateral arrangements between China and other claimant states is a necessary but not sufficient condition for maintaining security in the South China Sea as long as China continues to assert “indisputable sovereignty” over the maritime area.


The South China sea is only one piece, an important one certainly, but only one piece however in the general defense scheme China is building to put in check a presumed US threat, considering that this general defense scheme is based on three stages:

1 – ensuring for the Chinese navy the full secure freedom of navigation all over the South China sea, especially for its SSBNs from Sanya;

2 – recovering Taiwan so as to enjoy full free genuine territorial waters for China ships may sail freely to the high sea, at least during peace time, or even on the occasion of low intensity crises, or even more as the second cold war seems to begin appearing;

3 – nearing the strategic submarines to US territories coasts.

A key question consequently comes to the fore: can States enclose the islands (boxed together as a unit) in a system connecting the outward points of the group? The practical results are important, because the baseline indicates from where to start measuring the various maritime zones falling under the jurisdiction of the coastal State (seaward) and which waters are to become internal or archipelagic (landward) depending on the regime applied.
It should be pointed out that identifying the precise composition and characteristics of SCS island groups is a task better left to geographers not jurists. With a view to making a legal theoretical contribution to this problem, we will consider the applicable rules more generally. Consequently, scholars can use such insights fruitfully when dealing with the particulars of the SCS. Moreover, we will centre our analysis on the situation of States other than archipelagic States (which deserves a separate treatment of their own), i.e. the so-called “mixed states”. We will consider from their perspective whether two alternative systems for drawing baselines around offshore island possessions have a sound juridical basis in international law: the archipelagic and straight baselines regimes. Addressing the applicability of these alternative approaches to normal baselines is certainly not a moot point in the context of the SCS. By way of illustration the PRC has enacted legislation in which it has applied a system of straight baselines to the 

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