The South China Sea is a strategic area of transit for a large share of global trade. It is also a region characterized by territorial and maritime disputes between China and several of its Southeast Asian neighbors. In July 2016, an arbitration tribunal ruled that Chinese claims were not consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, this clarification of the rule of law did not facilitate negotiations between China and its neighbors. On the contrary, it led to a consolidation of a discussion format where power asymmetry and political games dominate. This note aims at detailing this apparent paradox, between an eroded rule of law and a falsely reinforced diplomatic channel.
Crédit photo : UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe