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    Roszko, Edyta 2015. Maritime territorialisation as performance of sovereignty and nationhood in the South China Sea. Nations and Nationalism, Vol. 21, Issue. 2, p. 230.

  • Asian Journal of International Law, Volume 2, Issue 1
  • January 2012, pp. 89-118

Dots and Lines in the South China Sea: Insights from the Law of Map Evidence

  • Erik FRANCKX (a1) and Marco BENATAR (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2012

On 7 May 2009, the People's Republic of China (PRC) protested Vietnamese and joint Malaysian-Vietnamese submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). In support of Chinese claims, a map was annexed to the letter of protest portraying a dotted U-shaped line engulfing the greater part of the South China Sea. Following a brief primer on the genesis of the U-line, this article aims to decipher the text of the protest letter accompanying the U-line, suggesting several possible interpretations. This contribution argues that the map is of doubtful probative value in the light of various factors fleshed out in international jurisprudence regarding map evidence. Attention will be paid to the reactions of third-party states to the U-line. This article maintains that effective protest on the part of regional states has prevented the map from becoming opposable to them.

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Research Professor, President of the Department of International and European Law and Director of the Centre for International Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The substance of this article was prepared for the Second International Workshop organized by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and the Vietnam Lawyers Association, entitled “The South China Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development”, 10–12 November 2010, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. This article is a revised version of the paper—“Dotted Lines in the South China Sea: Fishing for (Legal) Clarity”—presented at the Workshop.

Doctoral Fellow, Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO). Member of the Department of International and European Law and the Centre for International Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Lijiang ZHU , “Chinese Practice in Public International Law: 2008” (2009) 8 Chinese Journal of International Law 493 at 504505

Lijiang ZHU , “Chinese Practice in Public International Law: 2007 (I)” (2008) 7 Chinese Journal of International Law 485 at 498499

Marius GJETNES , “The Spratlys: Are They Rocks or Islands?” (2001) 32 Ocean Development and International Law 191 at 199201

Erik FRANCKX , “The International Seabed Authority and the Common Heritage of Mankind: The Need for States to Establish the Outer Limits of Their Continental Shelf” (2010) 25 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 543 at 563564

Romulo R. UBAY Jr, “Evidence in International Adjudication: Map Evidence in Territorial Sovereignty Dispute Cases” (2011) 1 Aegean Review of the Law of the Sea and Maritime Law 287

Yehuda Z. BLUM , Historic Titles in International Law (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1965) at 150

Aldo CHIRCOP , “Regional Cooperation in Marine Environmental Protection in the South China Sea: A Reflection on New Directions for Marine Conservation” (2010) 41 Ocean Development and International Law 334

John W. MCMANUS , SHAO Kwang-Tsao, and LIN Szu-Yin, “Toward Establishing a Spratly Islands International Marine Peace Park: Ecological Importance and Supportive Collaborative Activities with an Emphasis on the Role of Taiwan” (2010) 41 Ocean Development and International Law 270

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Asian Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 2044-2513
  • EISSN: 2044-2521
  • URL: /core/journals/asian-journal-of-international-law
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