Territorial disputes in the South China Sea

With military action threatened, tensions are mounting in the conflict of interests surrounding the South China Sea. 

Jurisdictional and territorial problems between China and Southeast Asia continue to escalate as the US joins the debate. Siding with South Asia’s “freedom of navigation”, America now poses a threat to China’s land reclamation efforts and territorial claims.

Satellite images from the area have shown a significant increase in size, as well as the creation of completely new Chinese islands. In an attempt to reclaim land in the South China Sea, it is suspected that China are creating the islands by piling sand on top of coral reefs. Furthermore, images show that the Chinese government have also been building airstrips, ports and other military installations within the area.

Given that the US plans on keeping the freedom of navigation and communication sea lines secured, the American government is supporting the attempts of an agreement on a binding code of conduct, as well as other measures that will help build confidence between the feuding sides.

On the other hand, the defense treaty between Washington and Manila, might involve the US into a China-Philippines conflict over large natural gas reserves in the disputed Reed Bank, or the profitable fishing areas of the Scarborough Shoal.

Furthermore, China-Vietnam tensions over territorial claims could also jeopardize the commercial and military interests of the US. If Chinese and Southeast Asian leaders fail to resolve the disputes diplomatically, it could lead to undermining of international laws governing maritime disputes, and further destabilize arms buildups.

Near the end of 2015, the US government stated that they will challenge China’s claims of sovereignty over the problematic territory, by deploying ships to some of the islands and flying military aircraft in “China’s” airspace.

Ana Vugrinec

Based in Serbia, journalist, writer, and a proud mother. Ana has a BA in Journalism, a wide experience in news agencies, but also loves writing short stories for children, as well as fashion and music articles, and DIY home tutorials on her blog.