Today, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea announced the resignation of Judge Guangjian Xu of China. Judge Xu submitted his letter of resignation on August 15, and pursuant to the Tribunal's Statute (Article 5, paragraph 4), his seat became vacant upon the letter's receipt. Judge Xu was first elected in 2001 to fill the unexpired term of Judge Lihai Zhao of China, who had died in office. He was re-elected the following year for a full nine-year term. The date of the election to fill the vacancy created by Judge Xu's resignation has not yet been set.
No explanation was given for Judge Xu's resignation. One thought and two facts might provide some clarification, though. First, it seems doubtful that, were Judge Xu ill, the ITLOS press release would not have mentioned it, especially since this is the Court's first resignation. Second, Judge Xu is a Chinese national. Unlike most other countries, China can expect to have a permanent member of the Court, even though, as a formal matter, there is no such guarantee. Thus, there was no pressure on Judge Xu from the Chinese Government to stay in office, lest a non-Chinese national be elected in his place. Judges from most other countries are not in the same position. Third, Judge Xu tendered his resignation on August 15, his seventy-sixth birthday. Coincidence?