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By Patricia Lourdes Viray
MANILA, Philippines — Shifting away from its nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, Beijing has forwarded a new sovereignty claim over the island groups in the disputed waters.
China's "four sha" (Chinese for sand) claim covers sovereignty and maritime entitlements from four island groups in the South China Sea—the Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands and the Macclesfield Bank area—according to a report from The Washington Free Beacon.
The Pratas Islands are occupied by Taiwan while the Paracel Islands are being disputed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. Parts of the Macclesfield Bank are being claimed by China and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, there is an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam over the ownership of the Spratly Islands.
According to the report, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has laid its new tactic to assert its claims over the disputed sea in a closed-door meeting with US State Department officials last month.
International law experts Julian Ku and Christopher Mirasola, however, said that China's four sha claims are no more lawful than its nine-dash line claim.
"The challenge for critics of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, however, will be effectively explaining and articulating why this shift does not actually strengthen China’s legal claims in the South China Sea," Ku and Mirasola said in an article published by Lawfare.
In July 2016, the United Nations-backed tribunal invalidated the nine-dash line claim and ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Read the full story at PhilStar