Principle for Joint Maritime Exploitation Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: a Case Study of the Scramble for Areas in the South China Sea


  • Dolnapa Nantawaroprai, Pridi Banomyong


South China Sea Conflict, Dispute over Spratly/Nansha Islands , ASEAN Consolidation


South China Sea covers the areas  in the main land of the Asian continent, southern seas of Taiwan, western seas of the Philippines islands, and northern seas of Borneo. It is the area of the fights for conflicting benefits in the seas north of Paracel /Xisha Islands and Spratly/Nansha Islands. The cause  of such fights among various nations to reap the benefits within this area is due to estimation that there is approximately eleven billion barrels of oil and one hundred and ninety million cubic foots of natural gas underneath the land in the South China Sea .

People’s Republic of China (hereinafter “China”) has claimed the rights in most parts of the area and impeded such claims made by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, while Taiwan has also claimed the rights over the South China Sea in the same way as China. Under an international agreement, there are provisions in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982) on the rights of the nations to claim for the minerals in the seas  where the maritime-power nations are aware. Therefore, the consolidation of the nations entitled to jointly benefit from natural resources by establishing an organization for the sea benefits, engaged by representatives of conflicting members and representatives of neutral countries is indispensable. Such organization should be committed to creating enforceable regulations to  guarantee security and prosperity  in  the region. 

This article provides information about existing rich natural resources in the South China Sea, causing many countries have attempted to claim for the rights of exploiting them. The article also analyzes how these countries justify their rights over the said natural resources, how the international law, namely, the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982) and consolidation of ASEAN play their roles in resolving this problematic issue