Marine Scientific Research by Third Countries over the Extended Continental Shelf

The Benham Rise constitutes the greater part of the extended continental shelf of the Philippines. It has been pointed out since early on that there may be large deposits of oil and natural gas under the Benham Rise, and the waters over the Benham Rise also have abundant marine living resources. The Philippine government submitted information on the limits of the continental shelf to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in order to exercise its sovereign rights to the Benham Rise as well as the 200-nautical-mile conventional continental shelf. Following the recommendation of the CLCS, the Philippine government deposited charts and relevant information describing the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in accordance with Article 76, paragraph 9. If it is assumed that the Chinese ship was carrying out marine scientific research on the Benham Rise, it follows that the research ship was on the high seas even if it was engaged in a survey of the extended continental shelf. Aren’t there fears that any problems arise from this situation under international law? The present paper examines this issue while analyzing discussions about this question.

The Functions and Work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf

Iuchi Yumiko and Usui Asano, two OPRF research fellows, explain the role of the CLCS, a body tasked with examining and recommending approval of submissions from coastal states regarding their continental shelf limits. Offshore islands can serve as the baseline for extensions of these limits, making them a vital part of states’ submissions to the CLCS. When conflicting submissions are made, as by the coastal states surrounding the South China Sea, how does the commission function? And how has Japan’s 2008 submission extending its continental shelf in seven regions been regarded?

The Problems in the South China Sea

In February 2012 the second in a series of international conferences was held in Singapore. There participants discussed territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Japan is not a party to these disputes, but they have bearing on the nation for their impact on the East Asian security environment and on China’s relations with other states. Defense specialist Ueno Hideshi introduces the range of views presented at this conference on Chinese territorial claims, US responses, and other factors that will need close attention as the region moves forward.