Historic Rights in the South China Sea

Ye, Qiang (2019) Historic Rights in the South China Sea. The Korean Journal of International and Comparative Law, 7 (2). pp. 208-225. ISSN 2213-4476

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1163/22134484-12340125


China has, without challenge, enjoyed and exercised certain rights in the South China Sea throughout recorded history. Those rights do not derive from the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; rather, they exist under customary international law and commonly known as ‘historic rights’. Recent interpretations related to those rights, however, remain highly controversial, which can be typically seen from the South China Sea Arbitration Case initiated by the Philippines against China. This article gives a case-by-case study based on China’s diplomatic positions on historic rights and compares them with certain international practice from an academic perspective; and then it examines the possible content and nature of historic-related rights enjoyed by China in the South China Sea and evaluates its legal implications on the dispute settlement approach in this region.

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