International Law, Force and Coercion in the South China Sea

Constantinos Yiallourides* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


Few issues have become the focus of such heated contestation and conflict amongst states than the determination of disputed claims of territorial sovereignty (generically referred to in this chapter as “territorial disputes”). 1 In international law, sovereignty constitutes the ultimate authority over a territory, be it continental or island. 2 The notion of territory is a concomitant of a state’s sovereignty, namely those geographical areas over which sovereign authority may be exercised to the exclusion of all other states. 3 The fundamental norms of sovereignty and territorial integrity enable a state with sovereignty over a given territory to act freely over that territory and to prevent other states from acting upon it. The same norms protect the sovereign state from unilateral territorial incursions and violations of its territory by other states. 4 But what if that state’s territory is disputed by another state and there is no clear answer as to which state has sovereignty over the territory in question? In practice, states might often disagree over the definition of the course of a land boundary (i.e. delimitation) or over the way it is positioned on the ground (i.e. demarcation). However, not all territorial disputes are mere boundary problems relating to the delimitation or demarcation of a land boundary line. Territorial disputes can involve much wider issues than just the location of a land boundary. For instance, a territorial dispute may involve competing claims of sovereignty over an island and parallel disputes over the exercise of sovereign rights in surrounding ocean space and the exploitation of offshore natural resources. The South China Sea is an illustrative example of such multidimensional territorial dispute with several states claiming both territorial and maritime areas as well as underlying natural resources.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe South China Sea
Subtitle of host publicationFrom a Regional Maritime Dispute to Geo-Strategic Competition
EditorsLeszek Buszynski , Do Thanh Hai
PublisherTaylor & Francis/Routledge
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780429331480
ISBN (Print) 9780367279479
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • South China Sea
  • Territorial Disputes
  • Use of Force
  • Coercion
  • Unilateralism
  • Status Quo
  • Military Deployment


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