The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is the part of pacific ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca straits to the strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometers.Due to its strategic location, in one of the busiest bottle- necks for maritime trade in the world, made it significant. It is the latest event in a series of South China territorial disputes between Asian nations.
It is located to the south of China, east of Vietnam and Combodia , north west of the Philippines, east of the Malay peninsula and Sumatra upto the strait of Malacca in the western and north of Bangka-Belitung islands Borneo.
- Islands and seamounts-The South China Sea contains almost 250 small islands, atolls, cays, shoals ,reefs and sandbars.
- The Spratly Islands
- The Parcel Islands
- The Pratas Islands
In geopolitical sense ,the South China Sea is an strategically significant body of water . It is the second most used sea lane in the world, while in terms of world annual merchant fleet tonnage. This region has proven oil reserves as well as one third of entire world’s marine diversity thereby making it an important area of ecosystem.
Why The South China Sea is debated issue?
The debate regarding territorial issue among these countries had began long back, but tensions increased recently. All countries China, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have there own claims. The Chinese arguments regarding the issue got world attention through the building of islands as well as naval patrols. The US on the other hand, showed its diplomacy making it clear that they won’t take sides in territorial disputes. However, they sent military ships near the disputed areas arguing it as freedom of navigation. Clashes in this area is becoming a flash point with potential of creating serious global impacts.
Moreover, the arguments is related to territory and sovereignty over the ocean areas, along with the two islands-the Paracels and the Spratlys .The nations are claiming over for the control these islands either whole or partially. Apart from these there are number of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs that also playing a seminal role with regard to the issue.
Even though these are largely uninhabited, the groups owes reserves of natural resources as well as mineral wealth making it one of the disputed territories in the world.
What are the claims of various nations?
Major portion of the sea is claimed by the Chinese in regard to an area defined by ‘nine –dash line’. China is backing its arguments on historical backgrounds as these island were considered as an integral part of China.
Critics says that China has not clarified its claims effectively and it is not clear whether it claims only land territory or waters with in the line.
They counter argues China explaining that they never claimed sovereignty over these islands before 1940.Furthermore,Vietnam says it actively ruled the islands in the 17th century and has various documents to prove it also.
- The Philippines
There arguments regarding the geographical proximity of the Spratly islands. it also argues for Scarborough Shoal around 160 kilometers from the Philippines.
- Malaysia &Brunei
Their arguments with regard to economic exclusion zones by UNCLOS [the united nations convention on the law of sea].Brunei not claiming for islands where as Malaysia claims for a part of Spratly islands.
The most serious trouble emerging between China and Vietnam in recent decades . Also arised tensions between the Philippines and China. For instance, introduction of drilling rig into waters near the Paracel islands by China led to rise tensions
Trials for solutions
China trying for bilateral negotiation with other nations, but its neighbours are not agreeing .Some countries proposed to China to negotiate with ASEAN, however, China opposed this proposal.
The Philippines tried to solve by international arbitration. In july 2016, tribunal supported the case but china boycotted the proceedings.
Overall, it can be noticed that this issue needs immediate action from the world nations to solve this problem. Otherwise, the tensions between the nations will increase and pose question to world peace.