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The South China Sea Award: How Should We Read the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea?

  • Douglas GUILFOYLE (a1)
Abstract

The conventional wisdom has been that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS] Part XV dispute settlement system is narrowly restricted and this reflects the drafters’ intent. Thus, tribunals should cautiously interpret Part XV, giving broad effect to its jurisdictional limitations. The unanimous award in South China Sea deals this approach a blow. Indeed, it assumes a fundamentally different orientation to interpreting UNCLOS: one which implicitly takes the foremost principle of Part XV as being its compulsory and comprehensive character. This approach is rooted in a very different understanding of UNCLOS as a “package deal” and the consensus it reflects. Indeed, I argue that any interpretation of ambiguous provisions of UNLCOS is necessarily coloured by one’s view of the struggles involved in its negotiation. Further evidence of this difference of approach in South China Sea is found, in particular, in its treatment of the regime of islands.

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Professor, Faculty of Law, Monash University. PhD, LLM (Cambridge); BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) (Australian National University).

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1. GRAY, Christine, International Law and the Use of Force , 3rd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) at 9 (referring to General Assembly resolutions).

2. ALLOTT, Philip, “The Concept of International Law” (1999) 10 European Journal of International Law 31 at 43.

3. ALLOTT, Philip, “Power Sharing in the Law of the Sea” (1983) 77 American Journal of International Law 1 at 5.

4. KINGSBURY, Benedict, “International Courts: Uneven Judicialisation in Global Order” in James CRAWFORD and Martti KOSKENNIEMI, eds., The Cambridge Companion to International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), at 204.

5. E.g. RAYFUSE, Rosemary, “The Future of Compulsory Dispute Settlement Under the Law of the Sea” (2005) 36 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 683 at 686.

6. Which is broader than commonly presumed: MORTENSON, Julian Davis, “The Travaux of Travaux: Is the Vienna Convention Hostile to Drafting History?” (2013) 107 American Journal of International Law 780 .

7. From a wide literature, see BOCZEK, Boleslaw Adam, “Ideology and the Law of the Sea: The Challenge of the New International Economic Order” (1984) 7 Boston College International and Comparative Law Review 130 ; PAYNE, Richard J. and NASSAR, Jamal R., “The New International Economic Order at Sea” (1982) 17 Journal of Developing Areas 3150 .

8. Boczek, supra note 7 at 2.

9. Ibid.

10. On the latter, POSNER, Eric and GOLDSMITH, Jack, The Limits of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

11. Allott, supra note 2 at 5 quoting J.-J. Rousseau, The Social Contract, book IV, chapter VI, at 192 (trans. Cole 1913, revised 1973 [1762]).

12. UN Conference on the Law of the Sea III, Memorandum by the President of the Conference on Document A/CONF.62/WP.9, UN Doc. A/CONF.62/WP.9/ADD.1 (1976), at 122, para. 6; quoted in South China Sea Arbitration (Philippines v. China), Permanent Court of Arbitration, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, 29 October 2015, para. 255 [Philippines v. China, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility].

13. Rayfuse, supra note 5 at 710.

14. KLEIN, Natalie, Dispute Settlement in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) at 352.

15. Ibid.

16. See arts. 297(2)(b) and 3(b), and 298(1)(a)(i), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 10 December 1982, 1833 U.N.T.S. 3.

17. RICHARDSON, Elliot L., “Dispute Settlement Under the Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Flexible and Comprehensive Extension of the Rule of the Law to Ocean Space” in T. BUERGENTHAL, ed., Contemporary Issues in International Law: Essays in Honor of Louis B. Sohn (Kehl am Rhein: Engel, 1984), at 153.

18. Mauritius v. UK, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Transcript of Hearing, 22 April 2014, at 52 per Dominic Grieve (UK Attorney General), online: PCA <https://www.pcacases.com/web/view/11>.

19. ADEDE, A.O., The System for Settlement of Disputes Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Drafting History and a Commentary (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987) especially at 88–9, 104–8, 128–32.

20. NORDQUIST, Myron H., ROSENNE, Shabtai, and SOHN, Louis B., eds., United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982: A Commentary (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1989) vol. V at 131.

21. Kingsbury, supra note 4 at 217–18.

22. On the interaction of ideal, legal, and real constitutional orders, see ALLOTT, Philip, The Health of Nations: Society and Law Beyond the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) at 80, 176 n. 49, 290.

23. South China Sea Arbitration (Philippines v. China), Permanent Court of Arbitration, Award, 12 July 2016, [Philippines v. China, Award] paras. 153–6; Philippines v. China, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, supra note 12, paras. 126–68.

24. BOYLE, Alan, “Dispute Settlement and Law of the Sea Convention: Problems of Fragmentation and Jurisdiction” (1997) 46 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 37 at 44–5. The Philippines had the good judgement to retain Professor Boyle among its counsel.

25. Philippines v. China, Award, supra note 23, para. 149.

26. Philippines v. China, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, supra note 12, para. 108.

27. Southern Bluefin Tuna (New Zealand v. Japan, Australia v. Japan), Award of 4 August 2000, XXIII RIAA 1 [SBT Award].

28. 10 May 1993, 1819 U.N.T.S. 360.

29. SBT Award, supra note 27, para. 63. In accord see Klein, supra note 14 at 35–9.

30. Klein, supra note 14 at 39.

31. SBT Award, supra note 27, para. 62.

32. Philippines v. China, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, supra note 12, paras. 221–9.

33. Ibid., para. 222.

34. Ibid., para. 224.

35. Ibid.

36. A point argued in the Chinese positions paper: ibid., paras. 204, 236.

37. Ibid., para. 223.

38. Ibid., paras. 223, 225.

39. UNCLOS, art. 121(1).

40. Philippines v. China, Award, supra note 23, paras. 509, 541.

41. Ibid., para. 475.

42. Ibid., para. 478.

43. Ibid., para. 483.

44. Ibid., paras. 483–4.

45. Ibid., para. 487.

46. Ibid., para. 487.

47. Ibid., para. 496 (emphasis in the original).

48. Ibid., para. 497.

49. Ibid.

50. Ibid.

51. Ibid., para. 500 (emphasis added).

52. Ibid., para. 503.

53. Ibid.

54. Ibid., para. 514.

55. Ibid., para. 515.

56. Ibid.

57. Ibid. (emphasis added).

58. Ibid., para. 519.

59. Ibid., para. 520. See further para. 542, also repeating the word “home”.

60. Ibid., para. 542.

61. Ibid., para. 543.

62. Ibid., para. 544.

63. E.g. TANAKA, Yoshifumi, The International Law of the Sea , 2nd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015) at 25; ROTHWELL, Donald R. and STEPHENS, Tim, The International Law of the Sea , 2nd edn. (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2016) at 12–14, 134–9; CHURCHILL, Robin Rolf and LOWE, Alan Vaughan, The Law of the Sea , 3rd edn. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988) at 17, 417.

64. HARRIS, David, Cases and Materials on International Law , 7th edn. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2010) at 324 n. 28.

* Professor, Faculty of Law, Monash University. PhD, LLM (Cambridge); BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) (Australian National University).

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Asian Journal of International Law
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