chapter  4
The legal framework for joint development in the South China Sea
ByRobert Beckman
Pages 15

The features in the South China Sea, especially those in the Spratly Islands, have been a source of tension and potential conflict in the region for many years. China and ASEAN have also taken steps which could lead to setting aside the sovereignty and maritime boundary disputes and jointly developing the resources. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) establishes a legal framework to govern all uses of the oceans. UNCLOS was adopted in 1982 after nine years of negotiations. It entered into force in November 1994 and has been almost universally accepted. UNCLOS has no provisions on how to resolve sovereignty disputes over off-shore features. However, it does have provisions on maritime boundary delimitation. The UNCLOS provisions on the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf boundaries assume that it not be possible to negotiate boundary agreements in overlapping claim areas because of sovereignty disputes or for other historical reasons.