The Role and Use of International Law in the South China Sea Disputes” is the latest paper by DKI APCSS Associate Dean Justin Nankivell.  Published by the Maritime Awareness Project, Nankivell reviews how international law works within the framework of foreign policy decisions.

The complex relation between law, policy and strategy is undeveloped when it comes to maritime affairs.  He believes that the “South China Sea disputes present a critical laboratory in which these variables can be studied within the context of the current maritime order.”

“International law has in fact both enabled and constrained China’s foreign policy since 2009. In that year, the disputes in the South China Sea began to fall within the “shadow of law” and move toward implicating globally normative interests in upholding the rule of law,” according to Nankivell.

He concludes that “China, however, is but one party to the South China Sea disputes. Hence, what the region demands of China post-verdict will be critical in evaluating how (and to what extent) the law will matter in the future. No state supports the nine dashed line as law. If China insists on the validity of the nine-dash line on the basis of historical justice, even in light of a ruling that rejects that argument, the world will enter, yet again, a new phase of conflict between the closed and open seas—this time within the militarized neighborhood of the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

You can read the full paper on the Maritime Awareness Project website:

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.



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