South China Sea: Tribunal ruling will affect many other states’ claims

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The July 12 tribunal ruling on a maritime dispute case brought by the Philippines against China helped to clarify international law on oceans and sets a high bar for what constitutes islands. It will have repercussions for many regional states’ claims.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) contains the most elaborate and complex dispute settlement regime contained in any international treaty.

The key element in the dispute settlement regime is that States Parties consent in advance to a system of compulsory procedures that will result in a legally binding decision by an international court or arbitral tribunal. The general rule in the Unclos dispute settlement regime is that if a dispute arises between two States Parties on the interpretation or application of any provision of the convention, and that dispute cannot be resolved by negotiation, either party to the dispute may unilaterally institute proceedings to have the dispute resolved by an international court or arbitral tribunal.

Unclos permits States Parties to opt out of the compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions for certain categories of disputes that are highly sensitive by making a formal declaration to the UN secretary-general. States Parties may opt out of the compulsory procedures for disputes on the interpretation or application of the provisions on maritime boundary delimitation, disputes involving historic bays or titles, and disputes concerning military activities. Several states have made declarations excluding these categories of disputes from the compulsory procedures on the settlement of disputes, including China, Korea and Thailand.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/tribunal-ruling-will-affect-many-other-states-claims

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