The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is scheduled to have an election in August or September. 

Located in Hamburg, Germany, ITLOS is a court created through the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) to hear disputes on maritime affairs. 

168 signatories to the UNCLOS will vote in the August/ September election.

7 judges will be elected to serve in a nine-year term. 

The United States government is a vocal promoter of freedom of navigation in the resource-rich and highly contested South China Sea. 

There are six countries with overlapping claims in the area, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. (Only five if you consider One-China Policy)

David R. Stilwell, Assistant Secretary Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, likened the nomination and possible election of a China endorsed candidate to “hiring an arsonist” to work in a fire department.

Stilwell “urges” participating countries in the upcoming election to consider whether an elected judge from China will “help or hinder” the implementation of maritime law. 

David R. Stilwell

As a rebuttal to the Assistant Secretary’s statement, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, raised that it is contradictory for the U.S. to have an UNCLOS defender stand since the U.S. did not even ratify the convention.  

Hua defends China’s candidate as well-versed in international law, and the law of the sea. She further added that a tribunal judge is expected to perform duties in their capacity, in effect impartial. 

China Did Not Honor 2016 Ruling

In 2016, the court dismissed China’s claim by historical right in a portion of the South China Sea.

China’s claim to almost 90% of the South China Sea was dismissed and was considered baseless to UNCLOS principles.

China refused to accept the ruling and declared it is null and void with no binding force. 


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