The entire Blue Dragon and Vanguard Bank areas within
Vietnam's continental shelf.
After Covington & Burling Law Firm
...Without fanfare, Vietnam last year took the highly unusual step of retaining
Washington- based law firm Covington & Burling. For an undisclosed fee. Hanoi asked
the firm to assess how the International Court of Justice (often called the World Court)
would settle boundaries in hotly contested areas off the southern coast of Vietnam known
as Blue Dragon and Vanguard Bank.
Covington & Burling
...Covington & Burling doesn't pass judgment on competing sovereignty claims in the
Spratlys, arguing that they have the characteristics of "small, insignificant islets
or rocks". Whether applying the Law of the Sea Convention or customary international
law, a court would hold that ownership of the islands wouldn't affect "entitlement to
broad maritime areas or continental shelf," the firm says.
The opinion deals with "seabed and subsoil resources," such as sedentary fish,
oysters and manganese nodules on the ocean floor, and hydrocarbon deposits beneath it.
The firm adds that a combination of the Law of the Sea Convention and case law has
established generally accepted legal principles. They make it possible to predict
"with confidence" how courts will "delimit between states where maritime
areas potentially overlap."
According to the opinion, Vietnam has three different bases, each independent of the
others, on which to claim Blue Dragon and all or most of Vanguard Bank.
First, Vietnam at a minimum is entitled to the maritime area within 200
nautical miles of its territory under the Law of the Sea Convention. All of the Blue
Dragon block and the "great majority" of the Vanguard Bank area is within this
Exclusive Economic Zone.
Second, under the Law of the Sea Convention again, Vietnam is entitled to
claim more because the "natural prolongation of the Vietnamese mainland extends
considerably farther seaward than 200 miles." The most conservative expert
interpretation places the entire Vanguard Bank area, as well as Blue Dragon, "well
within Vietnam's legal shelf entitlement."
Third, under the principle of equidistance and proportionality, a court
with jurisdiction to delimit continental-shelf boundaries throughout the South China Sea
would "leave the entire Blue Dragon and Vanguard Bank areas within Vietnam's
For its part, China is "radically in conflict with the most fundamental principles of
international law," the Covington & Burling opinion says.
(Asian Wall Street Journal, June 19, 1995.)