A Dilemma of International Law: The South China Sea Conflict

“The South China Sea is a clear example of situations where the lack of legal accountability in International Law takes a hit, leaves us wondering, to formulate a critical opinion, and hold onto hope

The South China sea has been victim to vast territorial disputes, leading to diplomatic barriers, cold displays of military strength, posturing exercises, and numerous uncertain imbalances in ownership of territories within the region.

The territorial conflict has become a front for nations to represent their physical strengths at the global standpoint since the inception of disputes in the mid-1900s, and an increase in tensions during the 21st century with China’s aggressive territorial push in the region, turning the international trade route into a major unstable spot for the world, with multiple claimants.

After long-running disputes, it’s of utmost importance to bring in external mediators for the regulation of overlapping exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea, the implementation of which, faces multiple barriers preventing the peaceful division of territory and resources in the region, these are wide-ranging, primarily including,

  1. Questionable and disputable evidence by the People’s Republic of China claiming major autonomy within the region, through factors such as the baseless nine-dash line, with a lack of interest in equal negotiations with neighbouring nations who have a stake in the territorial disputes.

  2. Vast overlapping of Economic Zones, specifically in the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

  3. Conflicting claims of territory by Taiwan, a region not formally recognised by most countries, nor a signatory to the Law of the Sea convention, and thus, not legally entitled to take over territory in the South China Sea.

  4. Loopholes within the Law of the Sea convention, such as the mandate for land to be able to sustain human habitation to qualify as an exclusive economic zone- A criteria which many islands (especially in the Spratly group) do not meet.

In this scenario of uncertain legal precedence, and aggressive responses in the region, a majority of nations have continuously intended to coordinate with the joint navies for conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP’s) in the South China Sea.

The region has become a hub for tensions in resource distribution, trade advantages, military potential, and most impactfully, a diplomatic/strategic power play.

The situation has a large devastating potential for worsening if not handled in the right manner. The most urgent matters at hand must be to,

  1. Ensure equal negotiations amongst stakeholders within the region,
  2. Combat disputable claims made by nations looking to increasingly acquire territory,
  3. Prevent the need for constant surveillance and posturing exercises in the South China Sea by multiple claimants.

The South China Sea is a clear example of situations where the lack of legal accountability in International Law takes a hit, leaves us wondering, to formulate a critical opinion, and hold onto hope.


Convention on the Law of the Sea, Dec. 10, 1982, 1833 U.N.T.S. 397,


Austin, Greg, How did the South China Sea dispute begin and where is it headed?, SCROLL.IN (Jul 29, 2020, 11:30 PM), https://scroll.in/article/968918/how-did-the-south-china-sea-dispute-begin-and-where-is-it-headed

Tong, Linh, Seeking a Solution to the South China Sea Disputes, THE DIPLOMAT,

(July 21, 2016), https://thediplomat.com/2016/07/seeking-a-solution-to-the-south-china-sea-disputes/


Ishaan is a passionate speaker and orator for the past 7 years, alongside great interests and efforts in innovation and pitching. He has been the Times of India Student of the Year awardee, won the Best Speaker Award at the Rotary International Asian Parliamentary Debate, been on one of the top 10 speakers at a TEDx initiative, and taken a keen interest in Model United Nations, with involvement in 50+ conferences. Additionally, while innovating and representing his work on multiple platforms, Ishaan has been really lucky to have become a Finalist, amongst the Top 36 of 20,000+ entries at the IIT Kharagpur Young Innovators Program, and received the Best Innovation in Gurgaon City by the National Innovation Foundation, Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India, under the Make in India initiative. With the purpose of enhancing his interests in problem-solving and representing his views on International and Societal affairs, he has made way to be the Youngest member amongst a great group of Law Graduates and Ph.D. students at the Wall of Justice Team, as a Content Writer and Research Intern!

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