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Revisiting Ocean Boundary Disputes in the South Pacific in Light of the South China Sea Arbitration: A Legal Perspective

In: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
Authors: Lili Song1 and Morsen Mosses1
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  • 1 Lecturer, School of Law, the University of the South PacificPort VilaVanuatu
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Abstract

This article examines three ocean boundary disputes in the South Pacific in light of the South China Sea arbitration. First, we consider whether the Matthew and Hunter Islands, over which France and Vanuatu have made competing claims, are full-fledged islands or rocks and argue that they are likely to be rocks. Second, we discuss the dispute between Fiji and Tonga over the Minerva Reefs. We submit that, if the Minerva Reefs are low-tide elevations as public information in English generally suggests, Tonga’s historic claim to the maritime area around the Minerva Reefs would be inconsistent with the principle of ‘the land dominates the sea’. Third, we examine Tonga’s historic claim to the maritime area within a rectangle boundary defined in Tonga’s 1887 Royal Proclamation and submit that the main difficulty for Tonga to establish such claim is to prove that it has effectively exercised sovereignty over the relevant area.

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