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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 continental shelf."
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.)

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