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Analyses and Commentaries

International law and sovereignty over Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes (Part 12)

South China Sea

Part 12: Occupation by force is illegal

Since 1885, international law on territorial acquisition has taken profound changes. For unclaimed land (terres res nullius), effective, uninterrupted and continuous occupation with relatively large discontinuity can be compromised if it is compatible with the maintenance of rights and notification of such occupation to be sent to other powers through diplomatic channels. A name that had been established can be lost if the state having such title transfers it to another state, either by way of transfer or by acquisition by prescription.

In the first case, a treaty must be concluded to acknowledge the hand-over of power. In the second case, the mechanism of acquisition by prescription requires two conditions simultaneously. The state in name gives up its name and the territory will become abandoned (dereclictio).

The state concurrently exercises the ownership over the claimed territory, which could be considered as valid and…

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