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Home Database The Seventh International Conference on SCS
The Seventh International Conference on SCS

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Mr. Bill Hayton, Associate Fellow, Chatham House (the Royal Institute for International Affairs), London, UK

There has been a rapid expansion of published writing on the South China Sea disputes but relatively little exploration of the disputes’ historic roots. Recent archival research has unearthed evidence that casts doubt over much of the received wisdom about the emergence of territorial claims there in the first half of the 20th century. A close examination of the sources and references of many of the standard works on the disputes suggests that they are unreliable bases from which to draw reliable conclusions. A dependence on Chinese official sources and Chinese newspaper articles published long after the events they describe has led authors to mistake a number of tendentious assertions as historical fact. Most of the accounts rely on a relatively small number of works published in the 1970s and 1980s. These reflect the state of knowledge about the issues at those times. The consequence is that contemporary debates about the disputes are being framed by the parameters set 40 years ago.


Prof. Robert G. Volterra, Partner of Volterra Fietta (Law Firm), UK

UNCLOS envisages that the delimitation of maritime boundaries will be the result of, first and foremost, agreement and, if not, then by third party dispute resolution. In the interim period before States have reached agreement on the delimitation of their maritime boundaries (or where their determination by a tribunal is pending), States are under an obligation to exercise self-restraint and to try to cooperate in relation to the disputed maritime area.  To this end, Articles 74(3) and 83(3) represent a compromise between promoting hydrocarbon exploitation activities in a disputed maritime area and preventing unilateral activities there pending its delimitation.  They set out legal rules of conduct that are compulsory and directive. Self-restraint and cooperation are critical components of an inter-State normative framework for stability and security.  This presentation considers the meaning and scope of those obligations.


Prof. Robert Beckman, Director of Center of International Law, National University of Singapore  

This presentation argues that as a way forward, the claimant States should agree to “set aside the sovereignty and boundary delimitation disputes” and cooperate on matters such as sustainable management of fisheries, protection of the marine environment and marine scientific research. It argues that the claimants should also cooperate to prevent and manage potential threats to maritime security in the South China Sea. It further argues that cooperation should include a serious consideration of establishing joint development arrangements to manage and share the resources in defined areas in the South China Sea. 

The presentation examines the legal basis and rationale for such cooperation. It emphasizes that it is critically important from the outset to specifically provide that any discussions or negotiations on such cooperative arrangements are “without prejudice” to the final resolution of the sovereignty disputes and the final determination of maritime boundaries


Prof. Herman Joseph S. Kraft, Associate Dean for Administration and External Affairs, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Philippines

The situation in the South China Sea has always been described as a potential hotspot since the disputes between multiple claimants to the land features and the surrounding water therein intensified in the late 1980s. This has perhaps never truer in the last ten years when the status quo of a “live and let live” situation was largely shaken by Chinese actions undertaken in response to what the Chinese government claimed were violations by other claimant states of that “live and let live” regime based on the ASEAN-brokered Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOCS). Whether or not these Chinese actions were justified, these have turned what used to be a “potential” hotspot into a crisis-prone situation. What makes the situation more dangerous is the overarching context of the intensifying competition between China and the United States.


Prof. Alex Oude Elferink, Director of Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

International law figures prominently in any discussion concerning the South China Sea disputes. International law provides a tool for determining which of the claimant States has sovereignty over the disputed islands and contains rules for determining the maritime entitlements of the disputed islands and thee delimitation of these entitlements with those of the coasts surrounding the South China Sea. Most of the analysis in relation to international law focusses on determining the content of the applicable law and how it should be applied in the context of the South China Sea. The presentation instead proposes to focus on how international law is argued by the parties to the South China Sea disputes. In this connection particular attention will be paid to the pending arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea between the Philippines and China.

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