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This commentary describes an opportunity for clarification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ‘regime of islands.’ It describes the growing need to authoritatively distinguish between islands, rocks, and artificial islands for the purpose of stabilizing claims to maritime territory. Sea level rise and island building activities in the South China Sea and elsewhere are increasing the pace at which new islands appear and existing islands disappear. This commentary proposes a two-part interpretation of UNCLOS, which (1) freezes the status of islands and rocks, and (2) asserts a practical distinction between ‘islands’ and ‘artificial islands.’ The United States is identified as a possible actor to forward this interpretation, and the benefits for that country and the international community as a whole are reviewed.