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South China Sea Dispute

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The South China Sea is a major connection of Asia with Africa and Europe to conduct sea trading. And apart from this, the sea is home to rich and valuable natural resources including natural gas and oil.
South China Sea

South China Sea –  the sea contributes the bordering as a part of the Pacific Ocean incorporating the areas between Karimata and Malacca Straits to the strait of Taiwan covering around 3,500,000 square kilometres.

The sea holds immense importance, as it is responsible for one-third of the world’s shipping passage, costing around $3 trillion in trade each year.

Location of the Sea:

According to IHO(International Hydrographic Organization), it is believed that the sea is a part of some countries including – China(South), Vietnam(East), Philippines(West), Malay Peninsula & Sumatra(East) and Bangka Belitung Island & Borneo(North).

Though several countries including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei claim their sovereignty over the sea, hence leaving this sea in disputes for years. 

Cause of Dispute:

The dispute is centered around the claiming rights of the two island chains – the Paracels and the Spratlys.

Past four years, China has been trying to take over the endless water which is considered international, to establish its military installations, spreading for island-building and also endangering the Philippines ships as a result, breaking international laws. With its nine-dash line on the map, it claims the major part of the South China Sea which is covering other islands share of the South China Sea which is dated back in 1947 but according to the critics the nine-dash line has no fixed coordinates as a result the South China Sea rolls in dispute between different nations sharing it.

Claims by Different Countries:

  • China: China claims its sovereignty over the South China Sea which is yet not clarified what nine-dash line on the map of the South China Sea with other countries surrounding it signifies as it holds the land as well as water territories.
  • Vietnam: Vietnam denies China’s claim stating that the two islands the Paracels and the Spratlys were ruled by it since the 17th century and the country can provide its proof.
  • The Philippines: This sovereign claims its geographical vicinity to the Spratlys island and the Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippines and China both claim at the Scarborough Shoal which is 100 miles from the Philippines and 500 miles from China. 

  • Malaysia: Malaysia also claims some of the disputed islands in Spratlys.
  • Brunei: Brunei is not involved in disputed islands though it claims its territory in the South China Sea which is in its economic exclusion zones.
Nine Dash Line in South China Sea
Nine Dash Line

Importance of the South China Sea:

The South China Sea is a major connection of Asia with Africa and Europe to conduct sea trading. And apart from this, the sea is home to rich and valuable natural resources including natural gas and oil. 

Recently the US showed its interest in the dispute though it just sought “freedom for navigation”, as an ally of the Philippines and Vietnam. And being the only superpower the USA has to come forward to keep peace and also it is interested in open sea lanes trading which other countries including the Philippines look forward to through the South China Sea.

This happened in the wake of keeping the South China Sea open for sea trading as it contributes a huge part of it and the USA doubts China won’t willingly agree to the laws in continuing trading with open sea lanes as it was witnessed recently when China tried to occupy large area establishing military installations and Beijing even tried to run patrolling by sending coast guard boats on the sea waters.

As the US Energy Information Administration predicts the area contains 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is huge as a whole, the South China Sea needs to be taken under consideration to seek disputes worldwide. Also, the South China Sea holds 10 percent of the world’s fisheries, feeding hundreds of millions of people.

Dispute in News:

  • In 2014, China set a drilling rig in waters near the Paracel Islands, henceforth inviting conflicts with Vietnam. At the same time, Beijing tried to take over controls in the Spratly archipelago, installing military stations and expanding the land under its territory.
  • In 2015, China conducted a land reclamation project which had built at least seven artificial islands in the South China Sea covering 2000 acres of area.
  • In July 2016, an international tribunal in the Hague proved that China had no historic rights over the sea, though Beijing described it as “no binding force”.
  • In April 2018, the Vietnamese government showed interest in settling the dispute with China under international law.
  • In 2019, the US, Japan, Philippines, and India threatened Beijing with naval drills in the South China Sea. 
  • In April 2020, China tried to drown a Vietnamese fishing boat, hence giving rise to tensions between borders in China and other countries including Vietnam and the Philippines.
  • On 4 June 2020, Australia and India had a discussion on maritime cooperation between the two Indo-Pacific(part of South China Sea)partners seeking to take opportunities as Comprehensive Strategic Partners over the sea.
Artificial Island constructed at South China Sea
Satellite photos showing military development on man-made island China has constructed to tighten its control of the South China Sea

China is trying to threaten and take advantage of the current situation, where the other countries are trying to rise from the suffering of COVID’19, a virus from China. Though the combined efforts of countries against China are proving to prevent China from creating further casualties.

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