China Wins Seat at International Tribunal on Law of the Sea

China Wins Seat at International Tribunal on Law of the Sea

  • China’s candidate for judge wins a seat at a judicial body responsible for maritime disputes, but just how important was this election?

China’s candidate has won an election to be a judge on a key United Nations-affiliated agency responsible for hearing cases concerning the Law of the Sea, despite U.S. opposition to what it views as Beijing’s growing influence in international organizations.

Duan Jielong, the current Chinese ambassador to Hungary and a law school graduate of Columbia University and China Foreign Affairs University, will sit as one of 21 judges at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). It is the international legal body responsible for adjudicating disputes related to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

Duan was nominated by China to represent Asia and won his seat unopposed on Monday, with 149 out of 166 votes gathered among member-states of the tribunal. Seventeen member-states abstained.  

“China’s success in the election illustrates once again that [a] certain country’s suppression of the Chinese nominee out of selfish interest is both unwelcome and futile,” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at his daily conference in Beijing, alluding to the United States’ last-minute effort to stop China’s pick from winning.