Progress on Asian Maritime Delimitations Needed.
8 June has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day of the Oceans to highlight the important role that the U.N. played in the creation of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. (UNCLOS).
Photo by Alice Mourou on Unsplash.
However, there are maritime delimitation disputes that are currently dangerous and require good-faith negotiations to prevent increased tensions. The maritime delimitations within the South China Sea are particularly sensitive. Maritime delimitations can be heated up by governments and cooled off at will when other political issues require attention. Currently, we are in a “heating up” stage between China and Taiwan, China and Vietnam, China and Japan, and China and the Philippines. The China – U.S.A. tensions also color the South China Sea issues. (1)
There are both economic and geostrategic aspects to these tensions, and both need to be addressed if good- faith negotiations are to lead to cooperation for the benefit of all. Progress in maritime geology and predictions of metal shortages in the decades ahead have made seabed mining a concern for governments such as China, Japan, and South Korea. Minerals such as copper, gold and other industrial minerals as well as oil-natural gas are thought to be available through seabed mining in this Pacific area.
The International Day of the Oceans can serve as the start of a strong mobilization of voices calling for good-faith negotiations and for a vision of cooperation among the States of the South China Sea. (2)
Image: The USS John S. McCain conducts a routine patrol in the South China Sea, Jan. 22, 2017. The guided-missile destroyer is supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Navy photo by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez. By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
- (1) For a good overview of the history with maps of the disputed areas, see Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia: Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1991).
- (2) For a useful approach to adjudication of delimitation issues, see A.O. Adede: The System for Settlement of Disputes Under the UNCLOS (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987).