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Dredge Your Way to China?

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The Legal Significance of Chinese Reclamation and Construction in the South China Sea

image of Asia-Pacific Journal of Ocean Law and Policy

This article examines five of the most important legal issues arising from Chinese reclamation and construction in disputed areas of the South China Sea. First, does the construction have any impact on competing territorial claims in the South China Sea? Second, does the construction affect rights to maritime zones? This involves consideration of the differing legal significance of islands, rocks, low tide elevations and artificial islands, the relevance of land reclamation and construction in this context, and the resulting implications for maritime zones including territorial seas, EEZs and safety zones. Third, are there other legal consequences arising from the Chinese activity (for example, on environmental grounds)? Fourth, does the construction bolster any potential ability of China to impose an Air Defence Identification Zone in the South China Sea? Fifth, what is the significance – legally and practically – of the award in the South China Sea Arbitration?

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, Adelaide Law School; Member, Adelaide Research Unit for Military Law and Ethics (RUMLAE), ; 2: Professor, Adelaide Law School; Director, Adelaide Research Unit for Military Law and Ethics (RUMLAE),


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