News / Asia

Analysts: Maps Offer Minimal Basis to Assert Sovereignty in S. China Sea

In this photo taken by surveillance planes and released May 15, 2014 by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands at South China Sea, Philippines.
In this photo taken by surveillance planes and released May 15, 2014 by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands at South China Sea, Philippines.
Simone Orendain
Philippine officials say the military has recently spotted what it calls "reclamation activity" by China at several reefs it claims in the South China Sea. China has long-contended its “indisputable sovereignty” over practically the entire sea based on historical facts and maps. 

A Philippine Supreme Court justice is refuting China’s maps as the basis for its claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea.  Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said they held little weight.

“China points to ancient Chinese maps as historical facts to claim the islands, rocks, reefs and waters within its nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.  At the outset, we must stress that under international law a map per se does not constitute a territorial title or legal document to establish territorial rights.” said Carpio.

Carpio recommended that the Philippine government enter into international arbitration to question China’s U-shaped claim to the waters, as demarcated by nine-dashes.  

Carpio has been holding a series of lectures on the legal basis of the maritime claims of the Philippines and China in the South China Sea under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

During a talk in Manila this week, Carpio highlighted more than a dozen maps created by both Chinese and foreign cartographers from 1136 through the early 1930’s.

“All these ancient maps show that since the first Chinese maps appeared the southern-most territory of China has always been Hainan Island," said Carpio.
This map of China is from what is believed to be a stone rubbing from 1136 AD. Philippine Supreme Court Assoc. Justice Antonio Carpio used it as part of his presentation to show that until the early 1900's China consistently mapped out its southern-most border as Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
This map of China is from what is believed to be a stone rubbing from 1136 AD. Philippine Supreme Court Assoc. Justice Antonio Carpio used it as part of his presentation to show that until the early 1900's China consistently mapped out its southern-most border as Hainan Island in the South China Sea.


Francois-Xavier Bonnet is a geographer with the Bangkok-based Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia. He said by the early 1900’s, China had surveyed and included on its maps the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, which then became the southern-most border.  In the early 1930’s China countered a French claim of the Spratly Islands and then included them in a 1935 map.  This became the basis for the nine-dash demarcation of 1947 that is now the official map.

“For maps in international law, most of the maps are just information.  In fact, they give information for one period and it’s not a legal document,” he said.

The Philippines says China has intruded into its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone numerous times, while China has maintained “indisputable sovereignty” over most of the sea.  Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea, which is rich in marine life, is believed to have major hydrocarbon reserves and is a heavily traveled trade route.

In late March the Philippines submitted supporting documents for its arbitration case to a panel with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.  It calls China’s nine-dash line claim excessive.  The Permanent Court of Arbitration last month gave China until December 15 to submit countering materials, but China again reiterated its rejection of the arbitration.

Myron Nordquist of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy at the University of Virginia said maps and additional data should be seen as supporting materials to claims.

“You have to do more than just make a claim, you have to demonstrate effective occupation and they haven’t done that,” he said.  

Nordquist said a claimant country needed to have power or authority over the territory and it could not be done over another country’s protests.  He sid China’s reclamation activity in Johnson South Reef did not demonstrate this because the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest.  

Manila is monitoring three other reefs in the Spratlys where it suspects Beijing is planning reclamation areas.  Officials say they plan to file protests if they find reclamation work is being done.

In early April, following the Philippines filing of documents, in a position paper sent to media, China’s embassy in Manila reiterated that its “sovereignty and relevant rights in the South China Sea have solid historic and legal basis, and have been upheld by successive Chinese governments.”

Euan Graham is senior fellow of Maritime Security Studies at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.  He said China was “in a bind.”

“It may generate a claim on historical grounds to islands in the South China Sea and submit maps that it believes add to its case, but the nine-dash line can’t be reconciled with the U.N. Law of the Sea if that interpretation is that it’s an enclosure of territorial waters,” said Graham.

But Nordquist said despite the minimal impact of using maps to reinforce claims, China was in a stronger legal position than it appeared.  He said China could reject arbitration because in 2006, under UNCLOS, it opted out of letting any third party determine territory or maritime delineations.  And this would mean that an award in favor of the Philippines would be hard to enforce.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: so from: china
June 11, 2014 10:40 AM
The nine-dash line, originally it was a Chinese geography classroom project that was adopted by the ruling CCP as a party policy. It came about when the loudest and biggest student told a class, "hey let's draw a line all across and most of the South Seas", the other students were not sure, "it doesn't look legit!" and "how about the Philippines and Vietnam?" The big & loudest student said.."oh screw them, I like this nine-dash line!"
In Response

by: Frank from: USA
June 11, 2014 11:34 PM
What is legit? Well before the creation of UNCLOS ,China
has surveyed and marked the 2 archipelagoes.After Japan
surrendered ,the ROC went and took control of the Spratly.
The PRC has held the Paracel Archipelagoes for half a century.
Civil war distracted the central govt. and the ensuing turmoil and isolation provided opportunites for Vietnam and Philippines to encroach.To say she has no right is to ignore the truth-Who
has the longest continuous presence in these 2 archipelagoes?
Now she is stronger.she will rightfully restore order in the SCS.
You can twist history and the truth all you want, the mandarins
in Beijing will make sure order rules again.
In Response

by: Jack Cole from: Beijing, China
June 11, 2014 3:09 PM
So true.

by: jonathan huang from: canada
June 11, 2014 10:02 AM
Finos territory was defined by the treaty of Paris, the Spanish America treaty and two others. non of them included scaboural island or pratly islands. the only way to steal those islands is to twist the UNCLOS. however UNCLOSE doesnt give you the right to claim EEZ over other nations territory! stop being greedy fino, scaboural and pratly are not yours, get lost! and think about it this way, if south china sea doesnt belong to china how could democratic Taiwan use the nine dash line to define its sea territory?

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
June 11, 2014 1:04 AM
Base on the treaty of Paris, Finos territory doesn't include neither scaboural island or spratly islands. Clearly those islands must belong to China. And the UNCLOSE doesn't give you the right to claim other nations territory! Sorry it doesn't work that way.
Just look democratic Taiwan's map, it uses the nine dash line to define its sea territory too! Clearly South China Sea belongs to China! Democratic Taiwan wouldn't lie about its territory or be aggressive! When Taiwan published the nine dash line in 1947, fino wasn't even born yet! Clearly Finos must keep away from the nine dash line!
In Response

by: Chang Huang
June 12, 2014 5:12 AM
China is a great country, but this claim will never be able to hold water with regard to the rest of the world. You say the South China Sea belongs to China? Then the Gulf of Mexico and the entire Caribbean belong to the US. And most of the Arctic belongs to Russia. And Britain owns half to the North Atlantic Ocean. The world cannot stand for these types of insane claims. No good can come from this type of assertiveness; not for any the Philippians, not for Vietnam, and not for China. There will only be animosity and dread. China can do just fine without attempting to expand its borders illegally. It has come a long way in a short time and the future looks bright, but it must do it in a peaceful and respectful way. Everybody needs to live and enjoy the world that was made for them. Intruding into international waters and the 200 mile limits of other countries, will not avail China to reach the goal of prosperity for which it strives. This is a critical mistake.
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
June 11, 2014 8:28 AM
@tom, it doesn't matter how Taiwan enforce it or not, the point is that Taiwan's claim of SCS itself is a evidence that SCS belongs to China! How a nation enforce it's sovereignty doesn't affect the sovereignty of this territory.
In Response

by: Tom from: usa
June 11, 2014 7:30 AM
Factually, Taiwan was the author of the map in 1947 but, still tries to figure out what it means and not enforcing it in anyway. China, on the other hand is enforcing it as territorial waters without ability to prove rights under modern laws nor clear historical bases. All Chinese talks of 2,000 years 1st discovery and authority are extracted from feature names, routes and points of commerce...none of which support legal arguments. That's the reason China is using barbarian forces, learned from ancient times and hopes to get away with weaker responses. Such lawless acts expose Chinese aggressions and meet with growing opposition which eventually, will turn physical. If Chinese can't stop their expansionist government now, they risk not only ill gained territories but, also destruction.

by: TamDang from: USA
June 11, 2014 12:30 AM
The Philippines taking China to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is a right and good thing to do, but do not stop there. China won't respect any international ruling.

Vietnam and the Philippines must obtain lots of short, medium, and long range missiles capable of hitting Chinese army anywhere, especially choking their supplies for war on the sea between Vietnam and the Philippines.

Historically, Chinese never voluntarily withdrew its invading armies from Vietnam; they were chased out. This should be a BIG LESSON for the rest of the world. Swords, not words, will change their minds.
In Response

by: spencer from: uk
June 12, 2014 4:10 AM
Chinese will say:" SO IS THE US", then the world is screwed.
In Response

by: TamDang from: USA
June 11, 2014 11:44 AM
@Nguyen T Dung from Saigon, What is your reality? Kneeling down to the Chinese aggression and giving them your country? Is that what you want?

Vietnam is buying submarines. Why Vietnam is doing so, if not defending their country?

Are you sure your last name is Nguyen and you are from Saigon?

In Response

by: Nguyen T Dung from: Saigon
June 11, 2014 8:59 AM
@tamdang,u talking like a childish playing war time in yo backyard.be grown up and accept the reality.

by: David Bishop from: California
June 10, 2014 8:13 PM
Philippines should still press its territorial claims because a UN decision that the Philippines owns that area of the South China Sea offers credibility to its claims. China has no credibility on this issue. With a UN decision in hand, the Philippines will find US companies more likely to perform oil drilling. China will not attack an American oil platform with the US Navy just a missile length away.
In Response

by: John from: Canada
June 20, 2014 5:59 AM
UN will never sanction 9 dash map so China's claim is illegal as if you look at history those vast area was not inherent property of China to include in its map as it neither controlled nor possessed those areas before that and some areas were part of other claimants well before illegal 9 dash.
In Response

by: John from: Canada
June 20, 2014 5:52 AM
UN ruling on Vietnam and Philippines is crucial as China is infringing UN accorded rights of these countries. UNCLOS not sanctioned 9 dash law and hence China's claim is illegal. UN wont sanction 9 dash map as those territories were part of other countries also well before its 9 dash.
In Response

by: John from: Canada
June 20, 2014 5:44 AM
China after 1900 once included Parcel then sprtley to its so called 9 dash and is claiming those areas without any historical backings. Let the UN resolve this by considering international laws which fully oppose China claims as well as history. Let the UN look at the history of other claimants on these areas as many say they were part of their territory .

by: tom from: usa
June 10, 2014 6:15 PM
China can make any fake stuff. Maps is too easy
In Response

by: Jack Cole from: Beijing China
June 11, 2014 11:31 PM
Actually, the map that Cina is using can also be found in all of the fortune cookie served after meal in chineman's restaurants in the LA area and NY City.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs