South China Sea and Freedom of Navigation


Interesting article about the new developments in the South China Sea on the BBC site (also broadcast on Radio 4 news). Some great satellite imagery with sliders to show the before-and-after of several of the artificial islands being built by China (Subi , Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs). The journalist, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, chartered a small Cessna plane from the Philippines and overflew the ‘international airspace’ above the artificial islands receiving warnings from the Chinese about infringing their sovereign territory. He also reported that, at the same time, an Australian aircraft was “exercising international freedom of navigation rights, in international airspace in accordance with the international civil aviation convention, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”. and see other links there too.

Note: according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea artificial islands do not count as sovereign territory and do not have a territorial sea or other maritime zones. The complex issue is to what extent these new islands count as artificial islands or reclaimed land around an existing rock or island. Extensive reclamation makes the original status difficult to determine.