President Ronald Reagan, the only U.S. president to reject the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), still has the most enduring U.S. oceans law legacy. A glance back at Reagan’s approach to oceans governance provides some insight into how he might act if he were confronted with China’s serial violations of the law of the sea.
Without even thinking about the nine-dashed line claim, it is evident that China is a recidivist offender of UNCLOS. China has illegal straight baselines along its coast in violation of article 7 of UNCLOS, illegal claims to a territorial sea surrounding mid-ocean low-tide elevations in violation of article 13, and an illegal system of archipelagic baselines around the Paracel Islands in violation of article 47. Parenthetically, it is worth recalling that the Paracel Islands were seized from Vietnam by military invasion in 1974 – such action being in violation of article 2(4) the Charter of the United Nations.
China also purports to impose unlawful conditions on innocent passage in its territorial sea in violation of articles 19 and 21 of UNCLOS, and Beijing illegally denies high seas freedoms and other internationally lawful uses of the sea associated with the operation of ships and aircraft in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in violation of article 87, while at the same time depriving its neighbors of their exclusive sovereign rights and jurisdiction in their own EEZ in violation of article 56. China also violates the sovereign immunity of foreign warships and military aircraft under articles 32 and 95, and appears to claim a territorial sea around its artificial islands, in contravention of article 60.
Likewise, by claiming the continental shelf of Japan in the East China Sea and Vietnam and Malaysia in the South China Sea, China violates its duties under article 83. Through disruption of the laying of foreign submarine cables and pipelines in its EEZ, China violates articles 112 and 113. China also has failed to appear before compulsory dispute arbitration with the Philippines in accordance with articles 288 and 298. There are many more such examples, but you get the idea.