No. 003 12 May, 2009
Declaration of the Republic of China on the Outer Limits of Its Continental Shelf
The Republic of China (ROC), as a Contracting Party to the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf, enjoys sovereign rights over its continental shelf under international law. The principles of the 1958 Convention have been incorporated into the relevant provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Moreover, customary international law also confirms that coastal states possess sovereign rights over the exploration of continental shelf and the development of natural resources thereof. This government has long supported such basic tenets. As a matter of fact, this government promulgated the Law on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf of the Republic of China on 21 January 1998, in which Article 2 stipulates that the continental shelf of the Republic of China is the submerged area that extents throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin.
The government of the Republic of China reiterates that the Diaoyutai Islands, Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands), Shisha Islands (Paracel Islands), Chungsha Islands (Macclesfield Islands), and Tungsha Islands (Pratas Islands) as well as their surrounding waters are the inherent territories and waters of the Republic of China based on the indisputable sovereignty titles justified by historic, geographic and international legal grounds. Under international law, the Republic of China enjoys all the rights and interests over the foregoing islands, as well as the surrounding waters and sea-bed and subsoil thereof. The claims made or occupation undertaken over them by any other state for whatever reason and by whatever means will be void and null in the eyes of international law.
As a costal state, the Republic of China since 2006 has actively initiated an investigation and related preparatory work for collecting the scientific data needed to establish its claims over the outer limits of its continental shelf in accordance with Article 76 of the UNCLOS as well as the requirements of the Scientific and Technical Guidelines of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
As indicated by the materials collected through the said investigation undertaken by this government, the continental margin to the east of Taiwan and the continental margin along the East China Sea to the northeast of Taiwan can be used by this country to claim its extended continental shelf. The related scientific evidence proves that the span of natural prolongation of the continental shelf of this country goes beyond 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baselines in the Eastern Taiwan waters and the East China Sea waters. Parts of such extended continental shelf overlap with the continental shelf claimed by the neighboring countries of the Republic of China.
This government has recruited experts in the legal, policy, scientific and technical fields to complete the preparatory work for the drawing up of the outer limits of the continental shelf of the ROC. As this country was not invited to participate in the negotiation and signing of the UNCLOS, it was unable to become a party state to the UNCLOS. As a result, this government is not legally bound by the SPLOS/72 and SPLOS/183 decisions made by the contracting parties to the UNCLOS. Accordingly, the making of claims over the extended continental shelf by this country is not constrained by the deadline of 12 May 2009. After this date, this country shall remain entitled to make claims on the outer limits of its extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles with respect to the waters of the East China Sea, the Eastern Taiwan, and the South China Sea.
Article 76, paragraph 10 of the UNCLOS provides, “[t]he provisions of this article are without prejudice to the question of delimitation of the continental shelf between States with opposite or adjacent coasts.” Since this country and its neighboring countries have not reached any agreements on the maritime delimitation of the surrounding waters, the resolution of the issues regarding the maritime delimitation between this country and its neighboring countries should be made in accordance with international law and the equitable principle through the conclusion of an agreement. Pending the conclusion of such an agreement, the government of the Republic of China calls upon all concerned parties in the region to assist in preserving the regional maritime legal order. Together we should maintain regional peace and stable development and substantively promote positive relations under the principle of “joint exploitation and resources-sharing.”（E）