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Arguing International Law in the South China Sea Disputes: The Haiyang Shiyou 981 and USS Lassen Incidents and the Philippines v. China Arbitration

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This article focuses on how international law is argued by the parties to the South China Sea disputes and in what context these legal arguments are presented. To this end, the article analyses three recent issues in the South China Sea: the incident involving the Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling rig, which operated in a maritime area in dispute between Vietnam and China; the passage of the USS Lassen in the vicinity of Subi Reef, which is occupied by China; and the arbitration between the Philippines and China under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The article concludes that looking at what legal arguments are or are not made and in what broader context those arguments are placed can contribute to a better understanding of the role of international law in the South China Sea disputes.

Affiliations: 1: Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea, School of Law, Utrecht UniversityThe NetherlandsK.G. Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea, University of TromsøNorway

1 I would like to thank Nigel Bankes, Øystein Jensen, Erik Molenaar, Frans-Paul van der Putten, Don Rothwell and an anonymous peer reviewer for their comments on an earlier version of this article. Any errors or omissions remain the sole responsibility of the author. This article is a revised and updated version of the paper ‘Three takes on international legal argumentation in the South China Sea disputes: the Haiyang Shiyou 981 and USS Lassen incidents and the Philippines v. China arbitration’ that will be published in the proceedings of the 7th South China Sea International Conference; Cooperation for Regional Security and Development (Vung Tau City, Vietnam; 23 and 24 November 2015). I would like to thank the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam for agreeing to the publication of this version.

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