China versus Vietnam: An Analysis of the Competing Claims in the South China Sea
Raul (Pete) Pedrozo
CNA Occasional Paper, 2014
This legal analysis was commissioned as part of a project entitled, “U.S. policy options in the South China Sea.” The objective in asking experienced U.S international lawyers, such as Captain Raul “Pete” Pedrozo, USN, Judge Advocate Corps (ret.), the author of this analysis, is to provide U.S. policy makers access to work that tests the various legal arguments that the respective claimants make in support of their claims, and weigh them against the relatively limited body of international case law associated with maritime disputes of this sort. (…)
Based on the arguments and evidence submitted by the claimants and general principles of international law related to the acquisition of territory, it would appear that Vietnam clearly has a superior claim to the South China Sea islands. (…)
Importantly this was not done to set the stage for making a recommendation to change long established U.S. policy of not taking a position on the legal merits of respective sovereignty claims. In fact, this analysis confirms the wisdom of that policy. Although the author finds that Vietnam’s claims are superior to China’s, as the forward indicates other legal analysts have looked at the same information and reached the opposite conclusion. In short none of the various claimants has what might be considered an open and shut legal case.
Download the report at China versus Vietnam – An Analysis of the Competing Claims in the South China Sea [PDF]