China at odds with UNCLOS standards defining coastal baselines
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Another area where the United States and China differ is on the establishment of the baselines on which all the maritime regimes are defined. The Convention allows the coastal state to determine its baselines in one of three methods: the low-water line, straight baselines, and archipelagic baselines.29 For coastal states such as China and the United States, UNCLOS declares, "the normal baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the low-water line along the Coast."30 UNCLOS allows a coastal state to apply straight baselines to measure the extent of their territorial seas under certain circumstances. These circumstances include: where the coastline is deeply indented and cut into, or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity.31 China, in its 1996 Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Baseline of the Territorial Sea, declared straight baselines and promulgated their geographic positions.32 Although the Chinese first claimed straight baselines in the 1958 Declaration on the Territorial Sea and again in the 1992 Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, the 1996 Declaration was the first time that the Chinese actually specified the geographic coordinates of its straight baseline claims. An analysis of China's baseline claims by the U.S. State Department's Office of Ocean Affairs finds that, "much of China's coastline does not meet either of the two LOS Convention geographic conditions required for applying straight baselines."33 In some areas, the misapplication of the straight baselines allows the Chinese government to excessively claim nearly 2000 square nautical miles as territorial seas that should be regarded as high seas if the baselines were properly drawn.34 The consequence of these straight baseline claims is clear. These straight baselines extend China's territorial, jurisdictional, legal, and economic authorities into the high seas beyond where the Convention intended.