Arguing International Law in the South China Sea Disputes: The Haiyang Shiyou 981 and uss Lassen Incidents and the Philippines v. China Arbitration

In: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
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  • 1 Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea, School of Law, Utrecht University, K.G. Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea, University of Tromsø, The Netherlands

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This article focuses on how international law is argued by the parties to the South China Sea disputes and in what context these legal arguments are presented. To this end, the article analyses three recent issues in the South China Sea: the incident involving the Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling rig, which operated in a maritime area in dispute between Vietnam and China; the passage of the uss Lassen in the vicinity of Subi Reef, which is occupied by China; and the arbitration between the Philippines and China under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The article concludes that looking at what legal arguments are or are not made and in what broader context those arguments are placed can contribute to a better understanding of the role of international law in the South China Sea disputes.

  • 70

    Ibid., p. 99.

  • 109

    JG Odom, ‘Why US FON Operations in the South China Sea Make Sense’ The Diplomat, 31 October 2015, available at

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  • 127

    Ibid., pp. 10–11.

  • 128

    Ibid., p. 12.

  • 129

    Ibid., p. 16.

  • 131

    Ibid., p. 20.

  • 132

    Ibid., p. 24.

  • 135

    Ibid., p. 194.

  • 138

    Ibid., p. 198.

  • 177

    See J Goldenziel, ‘International Law Is the Real Threat to China’s South China Sea Claims’ The Diplomat 3 November 2015, available at; A Aitken, ‘Manila’s Legal Strategy in the South China Sea: Forcing Beijing to Choose between Territorial Ambitions and Reputation’ (2014) Journal of Public and International Affairs pp. 7–24 at pp. 17–222.

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  • 178

    See Truong-Minh Vu and Trang Pham, ‘Who Will “Win” in the Philippines’ South China Sea Case against China?’ The Diplomat 28 August 2015, available at; on this issue see also the text at (n 181) below.

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  • 179

    See J Ku, ‘Why China Will Ignore the UNCLOS Tribunal Judgment, and (Probably) Get Away with It’ Opinio Juris, 4 November 2015, available at; see also Aitken (n 177) at pp. 19, 20.

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