The Philippines has formally appealed to a UN tribunal over a series of South China Sea islands claimed by China. [1. Philippines submits papers vs China, Philippine Star, March 30, 2014] China had warned the Philippines not do to it. The United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is expected to make its decision in coming months. China has said it will not recognize any decision by UNCLOS in the matter. At issue are small islands in the South China Sea and neither side wants to be seen blinking. China has claimed the islands are within its nine-dotted line. The Philippines claims the islands are within its exclusive economic zone. If China rejects an UNCLOS’ finding in favor of the Philippines, it could raise worries elsewhere in Asia about China’s territorial claims and how it plans to enforce them. One way or both sides to finesse the issue would be to agree to a Joint Development Area along the lines of what China is developing with Vietnam.[2. China, Vietnam to set up group to explore disputed South China Sea, South China Morning Post, Oct 13, 2013]
A Joint Development Area enables claimants to a disputed ocean region to jointly develop oil and gas resources while postponing determination of territorial claims until after resources are extracted.