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The South China Sea Arbitration: the Republic of Philippines vs. the People's Republic of China

Offshore Archipelagos Enclosed by Straight Baselines: An Excessive Claim?

Author: J. Ashley Roach

Ocean Development and International Law April 2018


China’s illegal straight baseline enclosing Paracel Islands. Source: “Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea: A Practical Guide” by Eleanor Freund.


This article examines the conclusion in the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal in the South China Sea Case that straight baselines may not be used to enclose off-shore archipelagos unless they meet the criteria set out in Articles 46 and 47 of the Law of the Sea Convention.


Using straight baselines to enclose offshore archipelagosthat do not qualify as archipelagic states under Article 46 of the Law of the Sea Conventionis not authorized by the Convention or customary international law.43 Their use is an excessive maritime claim subject to compulsory dispute resolution pursuant to Part XV of the Convention.

Straight baselines may, however, be employed in respect of individual features in an offshore archipelago in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.

The conclusions stated by the Arbitral Tribunal in paragraphs 575 and 576 of its Award quoted at the beginning of this article were fully justified and correct.

Read the full text at


An electronic copy of the article is available at



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