The foundation for multilateral cooperation in current international law is to be found in the UN Charter. The duty of cooperation has also permeated the whole process and the result of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.
unclos in its Part xi provided for institutionalized multilateral cooperation regarding the seabed beyond national jurisdiction by creating the International Seabed Authority (isa or Authority). In view of the work it has so far accomplished, the Authority has become an excellent example of successful institutionalized cooperation. The milestones in its development were the adoption of Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules, for Polymetallic Sulphides and for Ferromanganese Crusts as well as the Advisory Opinion rendered by the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The Opinion clarified the obligations and responsibilities of States sponsoring seabed mining. The isa is now set on a clear course of gradually moving towards the exploitation phase with Draft Regulations on Exploitation of Mineral Resources in the Area being under consideration.
The South China Sea fits the definition of a semi-enclosed sea of Article 122 unclos and Article 123 regarding cooperation of States bordering such a sea. The articles therefore apply. Although it is not an autonomous source of obligations it has to be seen as containing general directives for States bordering enclosed or semi-enclosed seas to work together. For the South China Sea a mechanism for multilateral cooperation is still lacking. A framework for a Code of Conduct (coc) for the South China Sea has already been endorsed with the objective of adopting a set of norms to guide the conduct of the parties and promote maritime cooperation. Such a Code will in all likelihood not resolve the South China Sea disputes but can certainly contribute to reducing tensions by establishing a framework for a cooperative mechanism among the States bordering that sea.