Law on the rocks: international law and China’s maritime disputes
Nakata, Jason S.
Clunan, Anne L.
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Maritime disputes in the Western Pacific have increased tensions among East Asian states. This thesis uses three case studies to investigate two questions: first, whether China’s maritime claims and behavior align with international legal principles governing maritime disputes, and second, which IR framework best describes China’s behavior related to its maritime disputes. The first case study examined ten legal rulings on maritime sovereignty and concludes that courts view effective control as a determinative factor in settling maritime disputes. The second case study examined effective control in three of China’s maritime disputes. The analysis revealed Japan’s claim to the Senkaku Islands and China’s claim to the Paracel Islands are strong due to continued demonstrations of effective control. However, the Philippine claim to the Scarborough Shoal using effective control is valid but weak. The final case study showed how China attempts to effective control on its maritime claims using legal warfare. Based on the analysis of Chinese legal warfare, evidence shows two IR frameworks best describe China’s behavior related to its maritime claims. Legal warfare provides a façade for offensive realist behavior; whereas the English School of realism expects China to use legal warfare to conform to some norms while revising other norms.
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