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South China Sea Lawfare: Post-Arbitration Policy Options and Future Prospects

Report · 2017

Download the report: South China Sea Lawfare (2017)

On July 12, 2016, the Tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration case issued its Award, officially bringing closure to the arbitral proceedings initiated by the Philippines against China in early 2013. In the Award, the Tribunal’s conclusions overwhelmingly supported the Philippines’ positions regarding almost all of the fifteen submissions in its Memorial. The Tribunal also rejected or opted not to take into account the vast majority of China’s positions as elaborated through official statements and was similarly not persuaded by arguments issued or evidence presented by Taiwan.

The Award, especially due to relevant countries’ policy responses and the enduring controversy over its content, has significant implications for the South China Sea maritime territorial disputes, which remain one of the most potent and complex issues affecting stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. In the post-arbitration context, rival claimants and major stakeholders have been forced to recalibrate their rhetoric, strategies, and policies in order to safeguard their interests and rights in the maritime area while maintaining an image internationally that is conducive to achieving these aims.

This report, entitled South China Sea Lawfare: Post-Arbitration Policy Options and Future Prospects, builds upon the success of the first South China Sea Lawfare report that was published in early 2016. By bringing together an international team of experts writing on the different approaches of each claimant and stakeholder, it aims to serve as a more inclusive reference on post-arbitration South China Sea policy issues than the many other analyses published in the aftermath of the Award.

In Part I: Introduction, the report begins by giving a brief overview of the arbitral proceedings in historical perspective and summarizing the legal positions of the parties involved and the Tribunal’s conclusions as described in its two awards. In Part II: Rival Claimants and Part III: Major Stakeholders, the chapters focus on (1) the specific policy approaches of each country or actor; (2) the implications of the Award for each; (3) the legal, diplomatic, and security policy options available to them; and (4) their future prospects in the post-arbitration context of the South China Sea. In Part IV: Conclusion, the report explores the implications of the Award for international maritime law and the future of maritime territorial disputes. By encouraging and compiling a diversity of views on the South China Sea, the editors hope that this report will serve over the coming years as a resource for policymakers, a foundation for future research, and an example of constructive international collaboration in the midst of the disputes.

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