Maritime Disputes and International Law : Disputed Waters and Seabed Resources in Asia and Europe book cover
1st Edition

Maritime Disputes and International Law
Disputed Waters and Seabed Resources in Asia and Europe

ISBN 9780815375203
Published May 24, 2019 by Routledge
292 Pages

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Book Description

The settlement of the maritime boundary disputes between China and Japan in the East China Sea, and between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea, is politically deadlocked. While diplomatic settlement efforts have been ongoing for the past several decades, neither side in each case appears prepared to back down from its respective maritime and territorial claims. Several incidents at sea have occurred, prompting diplomatic protests, military standoffs, even exchange of fire. The existing status quo is inherently unstable and does not favour either side to the extent that it holds hostage the multiple benefits that could otherwise be generated from the exploitation of the seabed energy and mineral resources in the disputed waters, creating an urgent need for a meaningful discussion on finding a practical way forward. This monograph undertakes a comprehensive analysis of these disputes based on the rules and principles of international law, critically evaluating possible institutional designs of inter-State cooperation over seabed activities in disputed maritime areas and makes recommendations for the prospect of realising joint development regimes in the East China Sea and the Aegean to coordinate the exploration for and exploitation of resources without having resorted previously to boundary delimitation settlement.

Table of Contents

Table of contents

Table of contents

List of figures

List of cases

List of abbreviations



Chapter 1: Introduction

Background to this book

International cooperation over seabed activities? Why now?

Goals of this book

Structure of this book

Chapter 2: The International Law of Maritime Boundary Delimitation


The role of seabed activities in the development of the law of the sea

Assessing the efforts to codify the law of maritime delimitation

The 1958 United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea

The Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973–1982)

Maritime boundary delimitation before international courts and tribunals


The equitable principles/relevant circumstances method

Moving towards a more certain delimitation methodology? The increasing importance of equidistance

Drawing a single EEZ and continental shelf boundary

The prominence of geography

Relevant circumstances when drawing a single EEZ/continental shelf boundary


Chapter 3: The Aegean Sea Maritime Delimitation Dispute


Geographical characteristics

Maritime claims and applicable law

Territorial sea claims

Continental shelf claims

EEZ claims

Method of delimitation advanced by Greece

Method of delimitation advanced by Turkey

Questions of maritime delimitation in the Aegean Sea

Zone-generating capacity of islands


‘Cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own’

The role and effect of islands in maritime boundary delimitation


Discernible principles or approaches

Discounting islands as base points

Granting islands reduced effect

Island enclaves

Combination of approaches

Implications for the Aegean Sea

Seabed resources in the Aegean Sea


Chapter 4: The East China Sea Maritime Delimitation Dispute


Geographical and geomorphological characteristics

Maritime claims and applicable law




South Korea

Delimitation questions in the East China Sea

China’s outer continental shelf submission to the CLCS

The role of geology and geomorphology in maritime boundary delimitation


State practice

Timor Sea

Japan’s practice towards South Korea

Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and Article 121(3) of UNCLOS


Application of Article 121(3) of UNCLOS to Senkaku/Diaoyu islands

Effect of Senkaku/Diaoyu islands on maritime boundary delimitation

Oil and gas development in the East China Sea


Chapter 5: Unilateral Seabed Activities in Disputed Waters


Maritime spaces under overlapping ‘sovereign rights’

Rights and obligations of States pending resolution of overlapping claims

Obligation to make every effort to conclude provisional arrangements

Obligation to make every effort not to aggravate the dispute

Lessons to be learned

Objective criteria are useful but much depends on the context

More scope for unilateralism?

Meaningful responses against unilateral petroleum activities

Impact on energy investments


Chapter 6: Joint Development of Seabed Resources in Disputed Maritime Areas


The basic concept of joint development

Joint development and cross-border unitisation

The functional character of joint development

The legal foundations of joint development

EEZ and continental shelf rights

Joint development in the law of the sea

Joint development and customary international law

Joint development in State practice

Single state authority

Joint authority

Compulsory joint venture


Chapter 7: Beyond Delimitation Questions in the East China Sea and the Aegean


Negotiating joint development in the East China Sea and the Aegean

Recognition of the prima facie validity of competing claims

Political will

Determining the zone of cooperation

A joint development zone in the Aegean?

Choice of legal framework applicable to the joint development zone: options

Single state model

Joint authority model

Preferable approach: ‘divide and manage’

Institutional set-up

Key objectives of the joint commission

Orderly and timely exploration and exploitation of petroleum

Prevent or mitigate conflicts between petroleum activities and other marine uses

Protection and preservation of the marine environment

Chapter 8: Conclusion


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Dr Constantinos Yiallourides is the Arthur Watts Research Fellow in Public International Law at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, specialising in maritime and territorial disputes. He advises States, international organisations and other entities on matters of international law.