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State Department says China ‘unlawfully’ claiming sovereignty in South China Sea

The State Department this week released a study that refutes several of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and concluded that China continues to flout widely accepted interpretations of international law.

“The PRC’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the study said.

“With the release of this latest study, the United States calls again on the PRC to conform its maritime claims to international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, to comply with the decision of the arbitral tribunal in its award of July 12, 2016, in The South China Sea Arbitration, and to cease its unlawful and coercive activities in the South China Sea,” it added.

China has made several claims that the study says have no basis in international law. For example, China claims sovereignty over more than 100 features in the South China Sea that are only revealed at low tide, but the study says international law doesn’t allow sovereignty claims against these features.

China is also drawing inappropriate territorial lines around large island groups, incorrectly claiming rights to areas where it has none, and claiming “historic rights” that has no basis in international law, the study said.

“The overall effect of these maritime claims is that the PRC unlawfully claims sovereignty or some form of exclusive jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea,” the study said. “These claims gravely undermine the rule of law in the oceans and numerous universally-recognized provisions of international law reflected in the Convention. For this reason, the United States and numerous other States have rejected these claims in favor of the rules-based international maritime order within the South China Sea and worldwide.”

Rhetoric between the U.S. and China has ratcheted up over the last several months, as observers in the U.S. fear China may soon try to take control of Taiwan, and China has warned of a “fight to the death” if the U.S. were to intrude on what it says is internal domestic policy.

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