The U.S. State Department’s legal study addresses this Chinese argument. “Had the drafters of the LOS (law of the sea) Convention intended to permit historic claims of one State to override the expressly stated rights of other States, the Convention would have reflected this intention in its text,” the study, called “Limits in the Seas,” declared.
In other words, since the law of the sea created certain rights in 1982 that did not exist before, such as a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, its intention could not possibly have been to allow other rights, such as historic ones, to override the new ones without expressly saying so in the new law.
To argue that “historic title” and “historic rights” are “matters not regulated by this Convention (and thus) continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law,” the study continued, is to misunderstand the comprehensive scope of the LOS Convention.
Thus, the study concluded, a state may not derogate from the Convention’s provisions by claiming historic waters or historic rights under general international law. “The Convention,” it said, “does not permit a State to resort to general international law as an alternative basis for maritime jurisdiction that conflicts with the Convention’s express provisions related to maritime zones.”