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The US Announces a New Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea: First Takeaways

In a welcome development, the revised U.S. position brings American policy in line with the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling.

On Monday, July 13, the U.S. Department of State unveiled an important set of clarifications concerning U.S. policy in the South China Sea. Specifically, the new policy positions explain in greater detail the U.S. government’s legal interpretations of certain excessive maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, with a focus on pushing back on Chinese claims.
Ambassador to the United Nations on the South China Sea earlier this summer made a similar assertion. In three bullet points, the State Department statement clarifies how exactly the July 2016 ruling informs U.S. policy, noting that the U.S. position is being aligned «with the Tribunal’s decision.» The three points are as follows:
Regarding the status of features in the Spratly Islands–a key feature of the Philippines’ case against China–the Tribunal ruled that «Scarborough Shoal, Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef are high-tide features and that Subi Reef, Hughes Reef, Mischief Reef, and Second Thomas Shoal were submerged at high tide in their natural condition.» These designations comport with the Philippines’ original positions in its filing to the Tribunal, demonstrating that the country’s legal reasoning for why these features should be considered either high-tide features or low-tide elevations was accurate.

This article was written by Ankit Panda

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