The South China Sea and China’s “Four Sha” Claim: New Legal Theory, Same Bad Argument

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The Washington Free Beacon reports that China may be backing away from its most controversial legal justification in the South China Sea: the “Nine-Dash Line.” Officials from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs advanced a new legal theory at a closed-door meeting with U.S. State Department officials last month that would rely upon China’s sovereignty claims over the “Four Sha” island groups in the South China Sea instead of the Nine-Dash Line.
 
According to the Beacon, Deputy Director General Ma Xinmin of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Treaty and Law “assert[ed] sovereignty” and maritime entitlements extending from four island groups in the South China Sea – Dongsha, Xisha, Nansha, and Zhongsha. Collectively, these island groups are referred to as the “Four Sha” (四沙) (“sha” in this context meaning sand). In English, these areas are respectively referred to as the Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and the Macclesfield Bank area.
 
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