China’s nine-dash line still infringes international law


Suggestions that China could claim historic fishing rights within the nine-dash line misinterpret international law. While Sourabh Gupta’s arguments, outlined in a recent Forum article, relating to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Articles 62 and 123 have been disputed elsewhere, we argue that his argument regarding Article 56 is also incorrect.

A Chinese government ship trails a Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel with reporters aboard in the South China Sea on July 15, 2014.  (Photo: AAP)

The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) regime is outlined in UNCLOS Article 56, which states that a country has within its EEZ ‘sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing […] natural resources’. UNCLOS and its subsequent interpretations imply that the right of exploitation is exclusive, as the name implies: other countries can participate in the exploitation of this country’s EEZ only with its agreement. When a country becomes an UNCLOS signatory it gives up any claims to any rights to fish within other countries’ EEZs, regardless of historical fishing activities. In return the country gains the exclusive right to fish in its own EEZ.


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