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Beijing urges the UN not to consider the Philippine request to expand its continental shelf

China has formally urged a United Nations body not to consider a Philippine bid to expand the legal outer limits of its continental shelf in the disputed South China Sea.

Last week, China in a diplomatic note called on the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf not to approve the submission, which aims to confirm the outer limits of its legal continental margin beyond the 200 nautical mile (370 km) limit revised.

“[The Philippine claims] have seriously violated China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea,” the mission said in the note to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

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“China has indisputable sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao [the South China Sea islands] and adjacent waters, and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters, as well as the seabed and its subsoil.

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“The Chinese government earnestly requests the committee not to consider the Philippines’ submission.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to the waterway, a major global shipping hub.

The dispute has escalated into frequent and sometimes violent clashes between China and the Philippines over the past year, raising fears of conflict.

In 2016, an international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines, saying China’s claims in the South China Sea had no legal basis, a decision Beijing refused to accept.

Earlier this month, the Philippines asked the UN commission to recognize that the outer limits of its continental margin extended beyond 200 nautical miles in the West Palawan region, opposite the South China Sea.

According to the summary of Manila’s submission, which was made available last week, the new proposed limits cover the Palawan-Mindoro microcontinent.

It said this served as a basis for determining the “natural extension of the Palawan and Mindoro landmasses.”

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Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal state can acquire exclusive rights to exploit natural resources on its continental shelf, including mineral resources, fish stocks and oil and gas reserves.

The Philippines noted that its submission may overlap with previous claims, including a joint submission by Malaysia and Vietnam in 2009, but was willing to discuss maritime boundaries with them.

Maritime observers have suggested that this move is unlikely to succeed as the commission – which is primarily a scientific and technical body – cannot consider disputed claims unless all parties involved agree.

For this reason, the committee postponed the 2009 joint proposal by Vietnam and Malaysia.

China is so far the only country that has objected to the Philippine claim through a diplomatic note.

In 2012, the Philippines successfully extended its continental shelf from the Philippine Rise on the northeast coast without opposition.

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This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice covering China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP Facebook page Tweet Pages. Copyright © 2024 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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