Four conventions opened for signature in 1958 at the First United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I) are among provisions of international law taking effect in the South China Sea: the , the Convention on the High Seas, the as well as the Convention on the Continental Shelf. Of particular interest, however, is the 1982 , since it supersedes some of the older treaties and incorporates integral components of the 1958 conventions partly verbatim. Soon after the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I), technological developments as well as undecided issues (“leftovers”) called for new regulations concerning . A second conference (UNCLOS II, 1960), however, ended without any formal agreement. Thus, in 1967, then-Maltese Ambassador to the United Nations Arvid Pardo, taking into account technological developments relating to deep-sea explorations of resources, growing pollution, and particularly the rising potential for conflict stemming from unsolved questions of maritime claims in the age of Cold War confrontation called for “an effective international regime over the seabed and the floor beyond a clearly defined national jurisdiction” in his address to the General Assembly. When in 1982 the Third Conference on the Law of the Sea () presented its final document for signature after nine years of extensive negotiations, participating states had devised one of the most comprehensive agreements throughout international law which—upon its signing in 1982—has been labeled a “Constitution for the Oceans.” Among the most fundamental provisions of the Convention, which entered into force in 1994, are the legal fixation of different , their calculation, and states' respective rights within them. The Convention, however, provides no provisions as to rights and (conflicting) claims of sovereignty. Thus, while it remains “silent on sovereignty over legally defined features,” it contains many provisions as to how certain features are to be characterized and which maritime claims go along with them. On this account UNCLOS is “critically important” for the South China Sea since, as Robert Beckman argues, four questions which are addressed in UNCLOS are among the central topics of relevance for the dispute: Which maritime zones may be claimed deriving from the territory of adjacent states and which rights do states enjoy in them? Which offshore features may be subject to sovereignty claims? Which maritime zones may be claimed deriving from offshore features and which rights go along with them? How can claims be harmonized in instances where they overlap or conflict with claims from other states? With its formal recognition by Brunei in November 1996, all claimant states in the South China Sea have become part of UNCLOS and in 2002 the parties reaffirmed their commitment to the Convention with regard to the South China Sea dispute in the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the…

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