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U.S. Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea
July 14, 2020

Office of the Spokesperson
July 13, 2020

U.S. Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea

The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening U.S. policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea. We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.

In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes. We share these deep and abiding interests with our many allies and partners who have long endorsed a rules-based international order.

These shared interests have come under unprecedented threat from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with “might makes right.” Beijing’s approach has been clear for years. In 2010, then-PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his ASEAN counterparts that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.” The PRC’s predatory world view has no place in the 21st century.

The PRC has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009. In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims.

As the United States has previously stated, and as specifically provided in the Convention, the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision is final and legally binding on both parties. Today we are aligning the U.S. position on the PRC’s maritime claims in the SCS with the Tribunal’s decision. Specifically:

The PRC cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf. Beijing’s harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas is unlawful, as are any unilateral PRC actions to exploit those resources. In line with the Tribunal’s legally binding decision, the PRC has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal, both of which fall fully under the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction, nor does Beijing have any territorial or maritime claims generated from these features.

As Beijing has failed to put forth a lawful, coherent maritime claim in the South China Sea, the United States rejects any PRC claim to waters beyond a 12-nautical mile territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands (without prejudice to other states’ sovereignty claims over such islands). As such, the United States rejects any PRC maritime claim in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei’s EEZ, and Natuna Besar (off Indonesia). Any PRC action to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters – or to carry out such activities unilaterally – is unlawful.

The PRC has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to (or derived from) James Shoal, an entirely submerged feature only 50 nautical miles from Malaysia and some 1,000 nautical miles from China’s coast. James Shoal is often cited in PRC propaganda as the “southernmost territory of China.” International law is clear: An underwater feature like James Shoal cannot be claimed by any state and is incapable of generating maritime zones. James Shoal (roughly 20 meters below the surface) is not and never was PRC territory, nor can Beijing assert any lawful maritime rights from it.

The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region.


华盛顿哥伦比亚特区(Washington, D.C.)

2020年 7月 13日
国务卿迈克尔·蓬佩奥(MICHAEL R. POMPEO)发表声明


美国历来倡导印度-太平洋(Indo-Pacific)的自由和开放。今天,我们正在加强美国对该地区一个重要的、存在争议的地区——南中国海(South China Sea)的政策。我们明确表示:北京对南中国海大多数地区离岸资源的索求完全不合法,与其为控制这些资源采取的霸道行为如出一辙。


这些共同利益已受到来自中华人民共和国前所未有的威胁。北京采取恐吓手段破坏东南亚地区南中国海沿岸国家的主权,逼迫他们放弃离岸资源,单方面声称拥有管辖权,以“强权即公理”的法则代替国际法。北京多年来采取的手段已昭然若揭。2010年,时任中华人民共和国外交部长的杨洁篪对东盟(ASEAN)有关官员说,“中国是大国,其他国家是小国。这只是一个事实。” 在21世纪,中华人民共和国掠夺性的世界观已毫无立足之地。

中华人民共和国没有任何合法的理由对该地区单方面强加自己的意志。北京自2009年正式宣布南中国海 “九段线”的主张以来,始终未提出任何明确的法律依据。2016年7月12日,根据1982年海洋法公约(Law of the Sea Convention)成立的仲裁法庭(Arbitral Tribunal)——中华人民共和国也是缔约国之一——一致裁决,中华人民共和国提出的海事索求没有任何国际法依据,应予以否决。冲裁法庭明确支持作为诉方的菲律宾提交的几乎所有的诉案。


  • 对于菲律宾一方提出的已被仲裁法庭裁决位于菲律宾专属经济区或其大陆架内的区域,中华人民共和国没有合法的海事索求权,其中包括对产生于斯卡伯勒礁(Scarborough Reef)和斯普拉特利群島(Spratly Islands)的专属经济区(Exclusive Economic Zone)的任何索求。北京在这些区域对菲律宾捕捞活动和离岸能源开发的骚扰属于非法,中华人民共和国任何单方面染指这些资源的行动亦属非法。根据仲裁法庭具有法律约束力的裁决,中华人民共和国对美济礁(Mischief Reef)或仁爱礁(Second Thomas Shoal)没有合法的领土或海事索求权。两者均完全属于菲律宾的主权和管辖权。北京也不拥有涉及这些地物的领土或海事索求权。
  • 鉴于北京未能对南中国海提出合法的、明确的海事索求,美国否定中华人民共和国关于产生于斯普拉特利群島各岛礁超过12海哩领海水域的任何索求。(其他国家就这类岛屿提出的索求不受影响)。为此,美国否定中华人民共和国对万安滩(Vanguard Bank)(位于越南外海)、卢科尼亚暗沙(Luconia Shoals)(马来西亚外海)、文莱的专属经济区海域和纳土纳群岛(Natuna Besar)(印度尼西亚外海)周围海域提出的任何海事索求。中华人民共和国骚扰其他国家在这些海域从事的捕捞或碳氢化合物开发活动的任何行动,或者单方面进行这类活动,均属非法。
  • 中华人民共和国对詹姆斯暗沙(James Shoal)(或产生于詹姆斯沙之事项)没有任何合法的领土或海事索求。该地完全属于距马来西亚仅50海哩的水下地物,而距离中国海岸达1,000海哩。根据中华人民共和国的宣传,詹姆斯暗沙往往被称为“中国最南端的领土”。国际法明确指出:詹姆斯暗沙等水下地物都不属任何国家的索求范围,不产生任何海事区域。詹姆斯暗沙(位于表面以下约20公尺处)从来不属于中华人民共和国的领土,北京也不能因此声称具有任何合法的海事权。