The legal basis for Chinese claims rests on three grounds: discovery, occupation, and repeated assertion of ownership. It has been established that Chinese sailors surveyed parts of the Spratlys during the Eastern Han dynasty, and that Chinese fishermen and traders frequented the area up until the 1600s. Although the Southeast Asian countries control most of the Spratly Islands, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) political leaders are aware that China's power and influence are likely to grow over time, so bargaining has advantages. The tangle of sovereignty claims makes clear that no country has both an unassailable legal basis and continuous occupancy to support its Spratly claims. Although imbroglios over the fisheries suggest the long-term marine potential of the Spratlys is significant, there is little doubt that the main economic potential of the region is in hydrocarbons. There has been a plethora of proposals for how to allocate sovereignty in the Spratlys.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)