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Dr. Charles E. Pirtle on China’s claims in the South China Sea

BBC Graphic June 2011

BBC Graphic June 2011

A previous post noted a recent article on China’s claims in the South China Sea. The most knowledgeable person I know on this issue is my dear friend and former Georgetown colleague, Dr. Charles E. Pirtle. Professor Pirtle was a mainstay in the School of Foreign Service, where he served as an Associate Dean and taught political geography for over 20 years– including the required course, “Map of the Modern World.”  He offers the following comments:

I would like to make just a few brief points about this issue. First, there is nothing new about this claim. China set forth its claim to all the islands located within the “cow’s tounge” in its 1992 law on the Chinese Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone. My “old” Map students should recall that I used a map similar to the one used here that showed China’s claims to virtually all of the South China Sea. That map can be found on p. 120 of Michael Klare’s book, “Resource Wars,” published in 2001. Second, the outline of the “cow’s tounge,” which consist of nine dashed lines around the islands, rocks and reefs of the South China Sea, first appeared on maps issued by the Nationalist Government of China in 1947; they were just maintained by the Communist Government when it took power in 1949.Third the issues raised by these claims are just one part of a multitude of different disputes that China has with its neighbors and the international community over sovereignty, jurisdiction, and the balance between coastal-states and maritime state rights in the South China Sea. For those interested, read Peter Dutton’s recent article, “Three Disputes and Three Objectives: China and the South China Sea,” in the current (Autumn 2001) issue of the Naval War College Review, which is available on-line.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.