Researchers working for the Chinese government have proposed introducing a new boundary in the South China Sea which may both help further natural science studies in the region and bolster Beijing’s claim over the disputed waters, the South China Morning Post reports.
According to the newspaper, the new boundary, described as a "precise continuous line," will "split the Gulf of Tonkin between China and Vietnam, go south into waters claimed by Malaysia, take a U-turn to the north along the west coast of the Philippines and finish at the southeast of Taiwan."
Dr Ian J. Storey, senior fellow with Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, warned however that introducing changes to the nine-dash line may undermine regional stability.
"If China does indicate its claims in the South China Sea with a continuous line which joins up the nine dashes, it would represent a complete repudiation of the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling," he said.
The researcher also remarked that while the new boundary would for the first time determine the exact area in the South China Sea that Beijing seeks to claim, citing historic rights, such a move would "cause deep concern in the capitals of Southeast Asia and beyond."
The newspaper also points out that that so far, the Chinese Foreign Ministry hasn't commented on this development, and it is unclear whether the Chinese government will actually adopt this proposal.
The South China Sea, a strategically and economically key maritime region, is disputed between numerous countries in the region. Beijing has been pushing its claim on the area by constructing artificial islands around the disputed Spratly Island chain.
In 2016 a UN tribunal ruled that China has no legal basis to claim the area outlined by the so called nine-dash line – a demarcation line that vaguely defines territorial claims made both by China and Taiwan in the South China Sea.