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OUP Debate Map on “Disputes in the South and East China Seas”

Published on February 7, 2014        Author: 
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Readers interested in the territorial and maritime boundary disputes between China and her neighbours in the South and East China Seas will welcome the creation by Oxford University Press of a “Debate Map” on the topic. The  “Debate Map” is a valuable way of keeping track of scholarly commentary, in journals and blogs, on the range of issues related to those territorial and maritime disputes. It is essentially an index which categorises and:

maps scholarly commentary on the international law aspects of the conflicts in and around the South China and East China Seas, including maritime boundary disputes, the question of sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, China’s recent announcement of an Air Defence Identification Zone, and the Philippines/China UNCLOS arbitration. It brings together primary documents with discussions in English-language legal blogs and a selection of journal articles.

Readers can “[u]se this map to review scholarly arguments and to keep track of which issues have been covered and who has said what.” OUP has also made available a range of online OUP materials on these issues (see the Oxford Public International Law Page).

The current Debate Map is the third such Map created by the Law team at OUP. The first was on The Use of Force Against Syria and was noted by John Louth here. The second on the Prosecution of Heads of States and Other Senior Officials at the ICC was discussed by Merel Alstein here. These debate maps are regularly updated and as Merel explains “aim to provide a quick overview of the relevant legal problems and controversies but also to create an archive of scholarship that can be referred back to  . . .”

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Ripples in the East and South China Seas: Aid, ADIZs, Aircraft Carriers, and Arbitration

Published on December 1, 2013        Author: 
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0912ChinaSeaTerritory2In the past few weeks throughout November 2013, various incidents have sharply demonstrated China’s foreign policy preferences in relation to disputes with neighbors over the East and South China Seas (pictured above left, credit), as well as its self-perception of its broader hegemonic role in the Asian region.  I recently spoke on regulatory freedom and control under the new ASEAN regional investment treaties at the international investment law panel organized and led by Dr. Stephan Schill of the Max Planck Institute and Professor M. Sornarajah of the National University of Singapore, at the Fourth Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law (AsianSIL) held in New Delhi, India from 14 to 16 November, 2013.  In the same conference, I witnessed firsthand the rare exchange  between China’s Judge Hanqin Xue of the International Court of Justice during the presentation made by my former University of the Philippines colleague Professor H. Harry Roque on the Philippine arbitration claim filed against ChinaIn a detailed reply after Professor Roque’s presentation, Judge Xue noted that there was no other Chinese scholar or delegate in the AsianSIL conference, and said she would thus take the opportunity to analyze the Chinese position on the Philippine arbitration.  She did stress, however, that her remarks were made in her personal capacity, and not in any way reflective of her views as a Member of the Court and certainly not representative of China’s official position on the South China Sea.)

First, Judge Xue observed that the questions in the Philippine claim, taken in their totality, in reality amount to territorial questions that fall well outside the scope of the subject-matter jurisdiction of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Second, she stressed that around forty states (including China) had not accepted compulsory jurisdiction under the UNCLOS dispute settlement procedure.  Third, she related her experiences as China’s Ambassador to ASEAN during the passage of the Declaration of the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, where, in her view, the littoral States signing the declaration clearly assumed the obligation to resolve the South China Sea disputes through negotiations and not through compelled arbitration.  Finally, she expressed that China decided not to participate in the UNCLOS arbitration initiated by the Philippines because no country could have “failed to see the design” of the Philippine claim which “mixed up jurisdiction and merits”, and that it tended to complicate the full range of regional maritime issues and inhibit confidence-building measures between the seven States parties to the dispute.  Judge Xue stressed that all parties to the South China Sea dispute would do better to cooperate on issues gradually (such as, first, through rapid response disaster risk reduction in maritime disasters and maritime-related environmental hazards) to build confidence steadily among the States enough to reach multilateral agreement on joint resource management and resource uses over the disputed area.  Even though issued in her personal capacity, the remarks of China’s most senior international judge certainly suggests, at least, that there is some groundswell towards peaceful cooperative actions for resolving maritime disputes in the Asian region.

Subsequent actions taken by the Chinese government in the past week, however, seem to demonstrate some equivocation to the above views.  On November 23, 2013, China announced that it was marking its own “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) to include airspace over the disputed islands (Senkaku Islands according to Japan, Diaoyu islands according to China) in the East China Sea.  Similar to other ADIZs established by the United States, Canada, Russia, among others, China established its ADIZ by declaration, and not by treaty.  An ADIZ may be established over territorial waters or land, but it may also be declared over high seas or extended into international airspace adjacent to national airspace. (Nicholas Poulantzas, The Right of Hot Pursuit in International Law, Martinus Nijhoff, 2002, at pp. 341-342.)  In the latter instance, foreign aircraft passing through the ADIZ would be required to provide the State administering the ADIZ with advance warning information only if the aircraft’s final destination is the said State. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Court of Arbitration Issues Partial Award in Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration

Published on June 12, 2013        Author: 
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jawad ahmadJawad Ahmad is an attorney admitted in New York and is currently based in Singapore. From January to March 2012, Mr Ahmad worked as an intern at the International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration where he assisted Legal Counsel on legal research assignments concerning the Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration, but did not directly work with the Court of Arbitration. This post is derived from the Author’s forthcoming article in Arbitrational International – “Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration and State-to-State Disputes” Arbitration International Issue 3 2013.

On 18 February 2013, the Court of Arbitration (Court) rendered the Partial Award in the Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration between Pakistan and India. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague acted as Secretariat for the Court. The Court is expected to render the Final Award towards the end of 2013.

The case was brought under the Indus Water Treaty 1960 (Treaty) and it is the first time an arbitration has been initiated under the Treaty. The Treaty sought to divide the use of the Indus River System between Pakistan and India. With the involvement of the World Bank, the two countries were able to draw up the Treaty with specified rights and obligations. The Treaty allocated the Eastern Rivers exclusively to India and the Western Rivers to Pakistan. Each country has rights to develop its respected rivers for development purposes, such as hydro-electric power. The Treaty permitted India to use the Western Rivers for the purposes of generating hydro-electric power under an agreed framework. The current dispute involves India’s permissible use of the Western Rivers under the Treaty.

Water is an important economic asset for both India and Pakistan. Not only does it account for a large part of each country’s agricultural use, but also hydro-electric power. Investment in the Indus Basin Irrigation System is in the billions of dollars and it has contributed to 21 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP in 2009-10 (see Shahid Ahmad, ‘Water Insecurity: A Threat for Pakistan and India,’ Atlantic Council). India, with an enormous population, needs to expand its energy sources and is currently investing billions in developing dams along the Indus River system (see The Economist, Unquenchable thirst: A growing rivalry between India, Pakistan and China over the region’s great rivers may be threatening South Asia’s peace). The stakes in this arbitration is, therefore, very high for both countries.

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Philippines Initiates Arbitration Against China over South China Seas Dispute

Published on January 22, 2013        Author: 
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Today, the Philippines has initiated arbitral proceedings against China with regard to China’s claims over much of the South China seas. Those Chinese claims have led to serious disputes between China and several of its neighbours in East Asia with those disputes intensifying recently. Both the Philippines and China are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and Part XV of that treaty provides for compulsory arbitral/judicial jurisdiction over disputes arising under that Convention. As is well known, UNCLOS Part XV provides for a choice of procedure and States parties may choose either the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS); the International Court of Justice (ICJ); or an arbitral tribunal as their preferred means for compulsory settlement. In the absence of a choice, arbitration is the default mode of settlement. Also, where the disputing parties have not chosen the same means, the dispute shall be referred to arbitration under annex VII of the Convention (See Art. 287, paras. 1, 3 & 5). As neither the Philippines nor China has made a choice of tribunal, the Philippines has referred this dispute to arbitration. The Philippines notification of the proceedings and its statement of claim can be found here.

Although UNCLOS provides for compulsory jurisdiction over most matters arising under the Convention,  Art. 298 provides that a State may at any time declare that it does not accept compulsory jurisdiction over certain specified categories of disputes. In particular, a State may exclude compulsory jurisdiction with respect to “disputes concerning the interpretation or application of  articles 15, 74 and 83 relating to sea boundary delimitations, or those  involving historic bays or titles”.  China did precisely this in 2006. So, the first thing the Philippines would need to do would be to persuade the arbitral tribunal that it has jurisdiction over the case. To do that it would need to show that the dispute it has submitted to the arbitral tribunal falls outside China’s exclusion of jurisdiction under Art. 298(1)(a). This may not be so easy.

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Oil exploration around the Falklands (Malvinas)

Published on August 13, 2012        Author: 
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In June, I looked at the longstanding sovereignty dispute over the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) on the occasion of the 30-year anniversary of the 1982 war. I revisit this topic today to examine the question of investor protection in areas where sovereignty is disputed, taking the Falklands (Malvinas) as an example. The promise of an oil boom in the South Atlantic has prompted several companies listed in London, including Falkland Oil and GasBorders and Southern PetroleumRockhopper, Desire Petroleum and Argos Resources, to survey the area. They obtained exploration licenses from the Falklands administration in 2011, which drew strong criticism from Argentina. Shareholders in these inherently risky ventures may wonder whether they have any legal protections should the sovereignty dispute intensify.

The sovereignty dispute adds an additional layer of uncertainty for the companies engaged in exploratory drilling and their shareholders, aside from the uncertainty on how much oil, if any, will ultimately be discovered. The listing prospectuses of the companies concerned all mention the pending sovereignty dispute as a risk factor, but likely underplayed its importance. For example, the Falkland Oil and Gas Prospectus contains the following disclaimer:

There may be other unforeseen matters such as disputes over borders. Investors will be  aware that the Falkland Islands were, in 1982, the subject of hostilities between the  United Kingdom and Argentina.

The Argentine Government has not relinquished all its claims in relation to the Falkland Islands. However, the position of the UK and Falkland Islands Governments is that the   United Kingdom has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South   Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. Her Majesty’s Government  remains fully committed to the offshore prospecting policy pursued by the Falkland Islands Government, as laid out in the Offshore Petroleum (Licensing) Regulations 2000. This policy is entirely consistent with Her Majesty’s sovereign rights over the Falkland Islands.

Do investments in the territorial sea of the Falklands (Malvinas) fall under the territorial scope of application of the UK’s BIT (or, for that matter, under the scope of Argentina’s BITs)? Read the rest of this entry…

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Falklands (Malvinas) Redux

Published on June 17, 2012        Author: 
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June 14 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the 1982 Falklands (Malvinas) War. After a decade of relative calm and increased technical cooperation on the Falklands (Malvinas), diplomatic tensions between Argentina and the UK have flared up in the lead-up to this anniversary. A concerted diplomatic push by Argentina has returned the sovereignty dispute over the Falklands (Malvinas) to the top of the foreign policy agenda. On June 14, Argentine President Kirchner made an emotional appeal to the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation for bilateral negotiations on sovereignty between Argentina and the UK. She was the first head of state to speak to the Committee. A recent conference at the University of Cambridge explored why the Islands remain so deeply rooted in the Argentine psyche.

The dispute over the Falklands (Malvinas) has returned centre stage just as the prospects of substantial hydrocarbon reserves in the seas surrounding the Islands greatly increased the economic stakes of the sovereignty dispute. The promise of an oil boom in the South Atlantic has prompted several companies listed in London, including Falkland Oil and Gas, Borders and Southern Petroleum, Rockhopper, Desire Petroleum and Argos Resources, to survey the area. They obtained exploration licenses from the Falklands administration in 2011, which drew strong criticism from Argentina. Earlier, both Argentina and the UK had anticipated that cooperation in matters of natural resources was desirable, given the uncertainty generated by their sovereignty dispute.   Read the rest of this entry…

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Why the Falklands Dispute Will (Probably) Never Go to Court

Published on February 25, 2010        Author: 
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Our readers are surely aware of the reemergence of the Falklands dispute on the international stage, provoked by the UK’s decision to allow oil exploration in the waters of the Islands, and the possibility that the oil deposits may be quite significant. Over at Opinio Juris, Julian Ku suggests that the UK and Argentina might well take this dispute to court, either the ICJ or the ITLOS.

In my view, this will simply not happen. Ever. I might well eventually be proven wrong, of course, but it seems to me that the Falklands dispute is, as a political matter, almost singularly unsuitable for judicial resolution. Here’s why:

First, the current oil exploration dispute cannot judicially be resolved on its own, since it legally entirely depends on who was title over the islands – the UK or Argentina. If it was Argentina who was the Islands’ proper owner, it would be perfectly within its rights to oppose the UK’s implementation of oil exploration by any non-forcible means. If, on the other hand, it was the UK who had title, then it is clear under the UNCLOS and other applicable law that it has every right to drill away, come what may.

Second, as for title, the issue is extremely complicated. To brutally simplify it, Argentina claims title either through succession from Spain, or by having occupied the Islands on its own shortly after gaining independence. The UK relies on prior discovery, effective occupation since 1833, and prescription. It also relies on the Islanders’ right to self-determination, which they’ve freely exercised by choosing to remain a part of the UK. This is, for example, how the UK’s Ambassador to the UN has just stated the UK’s position:

As British Ministers have made clear, the UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. This position is underpinned by the principle of self-determination as set out in the UN Charter. We are also clear that the Falkland Islands Government is entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its waters, and we support this legitimate business in Falklands’ territory.

Third, to be blunt, the British statement that they have ‘no doubt’ about their title over the Falklands is total rubbish. Privately (of course) they have every reason to doubt it. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that despite the UK’s de facto control for all these years, it is indeed Argentina that has a somewhat superior title over the Islands. Likewise, the Islanders’ claim to self-determination is dubious for various reasons, and UN practice with regard to the Falklands does not support it. For reasons of space and time I will not venture into this further, but there are two recent exhaustive treatments of the subject which are helpful: R. Laver, The Falklands/Malvinas Case (Nijhoff, 2001); R. Dolzer, The territorial status of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas): past and present (Oceana, 1993).

Fourth, following from three above, the UK knows full well not only that there would be a chance, but that there would be a good chance that it might lose a judicial dispute over the Falklands.

Fifth, the UK has invested an enormous amount of political capital in preserving its sovereignty claim over the Falklands, both internally and externally. It has fought a war over them, which still has a place in the national psyche. It has guaranteed to the population (if perhaps not the ‘people’) of the Falklands the right to determine their own fate. For the foreseeable future, it is politically inconceivable that the UK would be willing to renounce this claim, which it would have to be prepared to do if it submits the case to judicial resolution. Not to mention the fact that an oil bonanza would only render such an option less likely.

Sixth, as a matter of fact, the UK’s hold over the Falklands is strong. It’s military position today is far superior to what it was back in the day when the Argentine junta decided on its little adventure. Argentina has no practical way of forcing the issue.

In sum, because of (1)-(6), it is unlikely in the extreme that the UK would be willing to submit this case to a court. It would of course do so if Argentina would be willing to accept arguendo the UK’s title over the Islands, and thus narrow the dispute down to the current oil exploration issues. Yet Argentina has no interest in doing so, because it also knows that it would lose this dispute if title were out of the picture.

So, the only way forward are negotiations. Such negotiations could probably only be successful if title was kept out of the picture, in exchange for a deal on oil rights and a share of profits. The UK and Argentina had such an agreement in 1995, but Argentina repudiated it in 2007. Whether a new deal on those lines is possible today depends on various political considerations that I know nothing about. I am convinced, however, that little else is practically possible.

Anyway, those desperately wanting to see the Falklands dispute (or a simulacrum thereof) argued in court may wish to come to Washington, DC, from 20-27 March, for the international rounds of this year’s Jessup moot court competition

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