In early 2013, pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty, the Philippines initiated compulsory arbitration against China in an attempt to finally settle their South China Sea disputes. Tired after years of futile negotiating and what it views as belligerent Chinese actions in the Sea, the Philippines hopes that a UN tribunal will reject China’s nine-dash line and its claims of sovereignty over much of the Sea. International legal regimes are systems of choice, and China must calculate if it is in its national interest to comply with an adverse award. As an aspiring power, the political, economic, and military costs of ignoring a UN tribunal to China are high. Yet, China’s strict adherence to a historic right to the Sea’s waters and islands may preclude it from seeing the wisdom in complying with a UN award. Thus, the solution to peace in the South China Sea may sit outside of UNCLOS and may necessitate a freeing from UNCLOS obligations.


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pp. 75-86
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