Probing Vietnam’s Legal Prospects in the South China Sea Dispute

Asia Policy 16 (3):105-132 (2021)
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Although most Asian states are signatories to UNCLOS, which offers options for dispute resolution by either voluntary or compulsory processes, in reality fewer than a dozen Asian states have taken advantage of such an approach. The decision to adopt third-party mechanisms comes under great scrutiny and deliberation, not least because of the entailing legal procedures and the politically sensitive nature of disputes. Vietnam claims the second-largest maritime area in the South China Sea dispute after China. A comparison of two recent cases—the arbitration between the Philippines and China and the conciliation between Timor-Leste and Australia—highlights the importance of selecting between binding and nonbinding decisions and framing a complaint. In particular, any legal action under UNCLOS should specify China’s claims and actions in areas that encroach on Vietnam’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and violate international law.

Author Profiles

H. Nguyen
Northwestern University
Quan-Hoang Vuong
Phenikaa University


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