Dots and Lines in the South China Sea: Insights from the Law of Map Evidence

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17 Citations (Scopus)


On 7 May 2009, the People's Republic of China (PRC) protested Vietnamese and joint Malaysian-Vietnamese submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). In support of Chinese claims, a map was annexed to the letter of protest portraying a dotted U-shaped line engulfing the greater part of the South China Sea. Following a brief primer on the genesis of the U-line, this article aims to decipher the text of the protest letter accompanying the U-line, suggesting several possible interpretations. This contribution argues that the map is of doubtful probative value in the light of various factors fleshed out in international jurisprudence regarding map evidence. Attention will be paid to the reactions of third-party states to the U-line. This article maintains that effective protest on the part of regional states has prevented the map from becoming opposable to them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-118
Number of pages30
JournalAsian Journal of International Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • International Law of the SEa
  • South China Sea
  • Law of Map Evidence

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