For this dispute, Malaysia claims a small number of islands and its claims cover only the islands included in its Exclusive economic zone of 200 miles. Malaysia has militarily occupied three islands that it considers to be within its continental shelf which are Swallow Reef (Pulau Layang Layang), Ardasier Reef (Terumbu Ubi), and Mariveles Reef (Terumbu Mantanani). The Swallow Reef was under Malaysia control since 1983 and has been turned into an island through a land reclamation.Malaysia’s claims are based on geographic proximity, upon the continental shelf principle. Its claims date back to 1979 when the Malaysian government first published a map showing the country’s continental shelf and EEZ extending into the southernmost part of the Spratly Islands. Malaysia contended that the islands were terra nullius as when Japan renounced their sovereignty over the islands according to the San Francisco Treaty, therefore, the islands became terra nullius and available for occupation.
Malaysia claims that it has sovereign and right to control over all the islands and features within its continental shelf. Malaysia also cites the Geneva Convention 1958 and UNCLOS on territorial waters and continental shelf boundaries to support its delimitations. Not only that, Malaysia enacted an Exclusive Economic Zone Act (Act 311) and declared the said islands within its EEZ in 1984. Besides, Malaysia has effectively controlled one feature since 1983 and two others since 1986. Malaysia is the most recent state that occupies features in the Spratly islands.
Similar to Malaysia, Brunei did not claim the whole region of Spratly, but it claims only the part of the South China Seas nearest and within to its continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In 1984, Brunei claims Louisa Reef, which is a naturally submerged formation in the archipelago Even so, Brunei is the only claimant that not practicing military occupation in the area.Brunei’s claims are solely based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
It contended that the southern part of the Spratly Islands chain is actually a part of its continental shelf, and therefore it is being a part of its territory and resources. Thus, it makes Brunei should have sovereignty upon it. Brunei seems to have a strong legal claim over Louisa Reef as it is consistent with the provision of UNCLOS.