Laying Out the Rising Tensions Between Nations in the South China Sea

Tensions the South China Sea have not only remained a constant, but despite no recent urgent actions, those tensions keep on rising and rising and rising. China recently built artificial islands (which contain air-strips and radar stations), which has U.S. patrols challenging China’s arrogant claims. Because of this, concerns that the pressures regarding the highly-desirable territory may soon come to its breaking point is all too real.

The territory at the center of the conflict is a set of islands, coral reefs, and lagoons situated in the South China Sea waters which are rich with fish as well as potential gas and oil reserves.

Power-strong China lays claims on the islands; but so do all of the surrounding, weaker nations.

Here is a further look into recent key developments of the contentious situation in the region:

THE PHILIPPINES – The Philippines has thus far been one of two (the other being Vietnam) of China’s most frequent enemies – so much so, that the island nation turned to the U.S. for support in defense against the massive China. In its annual war game exercises, the Philippines has been host to over 5,000 American troops. In fact, during these exercises, they deployed a highly mobile U.S rocket, the M142 HIMARS, for the first time.

A UN tribunal was held on The Philippines’ case against China and is waiting to soon hear the ruling. China refused to take part in the tribunal and furthermore, says it will not be bound by the result.

VIETNAM – The second of the nations regarded as China’s biggest adversary in the region has “demanded that China remove an oil exploration rig from an area of the South China Sea where their border is still being demarcated, and has lodged a protest with the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi”, abc News reports.

Le Hai Binh, spokesman for Vietnam Foreign Ministry, also called for China to cease its operation of a new lighthouse on Subi Reef in the Spratlys, which is also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, and The Philippines.

However, the Chinese Embassy has refused all of Vietnam’s appeals, saying that the oil rig is “conducting standard exploratory activities within waters under China’s ‘undisputed’ jurisdiction”, according to abc News.

INDONESIA – On March 19 of this year, an Indonesian patrol ship intercepted a Chinese fishing vessel off the Natuna Islands – the point at which Indonesia’s economic zone overlaps with China’s “nine-dash line”. This incident sparked even more combative behavior between the nations.

Indonesian officials claim that when a Chinese coast guard ship a fisherman, it deliberately rammed the vessel as it was being towed in order to escape. As a result, Indonesia fired back by refusing to release eight Chinese crew members who are being held on charges of illegal fishing.

MALAYSIA – Malaysia is upset that 100 Chinese fishing boats have encroached on its territory, near the shores of Loconia Shoals. However, China considers those waters to be traditional Chinese fishing grounds, and thus have a right to be there.

An example of China’s reaction in all of this:

“Washington should know that the more provocative moves it makes against China, the more counter-measures Beijing will take. Such an undesirable cycle may push both sides nearer confrontation and cause both to prepare for the worst-case scenario, potentially making it self-fulfilling.” — editorial in the U.S. edition of the state-supported China Daily.

With all of these recent key developments, there is sure to be more tensions in the South China Sea.


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