March 2020 witnessed 3 further communications being submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) concerning the Partial Submission by Malaysia in the South China Sea. On the 6 March 2020, the Philippines submitted Communication dated 6 March 2020 (Philippines 1) responding to the previously reported Communication dated 12 December 2019 (China). The Philippines also submitted Communication dated 6 March 2020 (Philippines 2) responding to CLCS Submission by the Government of Malaysia. On the 23 March 2020 China submitted Communication dated 23 March 2020 (China) which responds to Philippines Communications 1 and 2.
Category Archives: State Practice
On 4 February 2020 the Russian Foreign Minister sent a message to the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs on the 100th anniversary of the Spitsbergen Treaty. The letter raises numerous ‘concerns’ including “the unlawfulness of Norway’s fisheries protection zone” and requests further bilateral consultations.
For further information see MID Press Release № 180-04-02-2020.
On 29 January 2020 the UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity) introduced to the House of Lords the Fisheries Bill (HL Bill 71). As previously reported, the bill was first introduced during the last parliament in the House of Commons. As set out in the Explanatory Notes (HL Bill 71):
Since the Bill was most recently considered in the last Parliament, the Government has included additional provisions: a single set of UK-wide fisheries objectives (including a new climate change objective); a duty to create fisheries management plans to fish at sustainable limits for all stocks; and a broadening of the grant making power. The Bill also provides further powers for the Welsh and Scottish Governments that reflect a number of those granted to the Secretary of State, and a change to the commencement provisions (para. 3).
Of particular interest for international fisheries law is the climate change objective (clause 1(1)(h), 1(9)) and the fisheries management plan obligations (clauses 6-9).
Singapore/Malaysia: Sub-Committee to Commence Negotiations on Maritime Boundary Delimitation of Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge
The eighth meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Technical Committee (MSJTC) on the Implementation of the International Court of Justice Judgment on Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge was held 21 January 2020 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The outcomes of the meeting include:
“The Meeting further agreed for the Sub-Committee on Maritime Boundary Delimitation of Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge to commence negotiations.”
The MSJTC is a cooperative process established to implement the 2008 ICJ Judgment (Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore)). See further the discontinued Request for Interpretation of the Judgment of 23 May 2008 in the case concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore) (Malaysia v. Singapore).
On the 30 December 2019 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia formally protested against Chinese vessels allegedly involved in IUU fishing activities in Indonesia’s EEZ (referred to by Indonesia as the ‘North Natuna Sea’), as well as the presence of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel. Indonesia’s response included summoning the Chinese Ambassador to Jakarta and submitting a diplomatic memorandum of protest.
The Indonesian position repeated its rejection of the Chinese ‘nine-dash line’, reiterated China’s obligations to comply with both UNCLOS (as a state party) and the South China Sea Arbitration Award (UNCLOS, Annex VII, Article 11; South China Sea Arbitration Award, Paragraph 1200) and reiterated Indonesia’s position that Indonesia does not have any overlapping jurisdiction with China in the South China Sea. On 1 January 2020 a subsequent statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia rejected the claims by China to historic maritime waters as without legal basis, as well as any Chinese references to ‘relevant waters’ as unrecognized in UNCLOS. “Indonesia Urges the People’s Republic of China to explain the legal basis and clear boundaries regarding the claims of the PRC in [the South China Sea] based on UNCLOS 1982” (Paragraph 3 [in Indonesian]).
In November 2015 a Chinese spokesperson stated “[t]he Chinese side has no objection to Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna islands”. To date, in response to the December 2019 incident a Chinese spokesperson (31 December 2019; 2 January 2020) has repeated its general position on the South China Sea without further detail.
The Parliament of Morocco (Commission des Affaires étrangères, de la défense nationale, des affaires islamiques et des Marocains résidant à l’étranger à la Chambre des représentants) has approved (16 December 2019) two bills (projets de loi) concerning the delimitation of maritime zones. The projet de loi n° 37.17 alters the previous legislation on the territorial waters, updating existing baselines with more recently surveyed data; the projet de loi n° 38.17 alters previous legislation concerning the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. Both bills were first presented in 2017 and they apply to the waters adjacent to the Southern Provinces of Morocco, located within a Non-Self Governing Territory listed under Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations as “Western Sahara“.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco has stated that these initiatives “do not mean the unavailability of Morocco for a solution to any possible conflict with its neighbours Spain and Mauritania”. This statement is available here (in French). In response, the Government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic published a statement saying that the “unilateral Moroccan act to claim Western Sahara maritime zones is null and void”. This statement is available here.
In accordance with Article 76(8) of UNCLOS Malaysia has on 12 December 2019 made a partial submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) regarding its continental shelf in the northern part of the South China Sea. According to Malaysia (Ex Summary, paras. 1.2-1.4), this partial submission concerns the remaining portion of the Malaysian continental shelf in the South China Sea not covered by the 2009 Joint Submission by Malaysia and Viet Nam ‘in the southern part of the South China Sea’.
China has submitted a Communication dated 12 December 2019 which requests the CLCS to not consider the Malaysian Submission due to the existence of a land or maritime dispute (Article 5(a) of Annex I of the Rules of Procedure of the CLCS). Malaysia rejects the existence of any dispute (Ex Summary, para. 4.1).
For more information see here, Executive Summary, Note dated 12 December 2019 from the Permanent Mission of Malaysia and the Communication dated 12 December 2019 (China).