Background Briefing:South China Sea and RegionalSecurityCarlyle A. ThayerJuly 20, 2013
[client name deleted]We are preparing a report for a general audience on
China’s South China Sea claims
and the impact on regional security and would greatly appreciate your input andrecommendation of current sources, especially on the legal action taken by thePhilippines.ASSESSMENT:
China's South China Sea Claims
: In May 2009, the People's Republic of China (PRC)for the first time officially tabled to the UN Commission on the Limits of theContinental Shelf its 9-dash line u-shaped map claiming over 80% of the South ChinaSea. This map was originally drawn up in 1947 by the Republic of China (Taiwan) andadopted by the PRC after it came to power in 1949. The 1947 map had eleven dashlines, two in the Gulf of Tonkin were removed without explanation in 1953. Abouttwo years ago the PRC added a tenth line to the east of Taiwan.The point of China's claims, other than the map, is that it has never clarified what itis claiming (all the waters, islands, rocks and other features within the 9-dash lines?).Nor has China clarified the international legal basis for its claims. China asserts"historic rights" and claims "indisputable sovereignty" over the South China Sea.Under customary international law, the "land dominates the sea". In other words,claims arise from baselines on a state's coast. From these baselines a state may claimterritorial waters, contiguous zone, 200 nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and acontinental shelf. China's u-shaped line cuts deeply into the EEZs established byVietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. This has led to attempts by China toassert its sovereignty by cutting the cables of oil exploration ships contracted byVietnam to conduct operations in its EEZ. China has also put heavy diplomaticpressure on American and other oil companies to stop assisting Vietnam in thedevelopment of offshore hydrocarbon resources. The Obama Administration haspushed back.In 2009 China accosted the USNS
survey ship operating in China's EEZ off Hainan Island. China has regularly challenged other US surveillance ships off its eastcoast. No incidents have been reported until this past week.
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