Beijing's self-made islands and the law of the sea

A COUPLE of weeks ago, IHS Jane's, a leading British publishing company specialising in military topics, reported that China was reclaiming land at Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea and was transforming permanently submerged features that do not qualify as islands under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea into an artificial island big enough to accommodate an airfield and a harbour, the largest Chinese naval facility in the Spratly Islands.

With the benefit of modern technology, China is able to transform nature. In theory, at least, the artificial island then can be cited to advance its legal claims not only to a 12-mile territorial sea but also to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive...

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