The South China Sea is a sea between a giant and a few little barbarians. The South China Sea is a semi-enclosed sea at the Pacific Ocean surrounded by eight sovereign states- china, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Japan. The South China Sea is known to be one of the most crucial seas on this planet. This all because its territory spans 3,500,000 kilometers and is very rich in terms of natural resources, believed to have 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under the islands. And the most important reason is of diplomatic power.it also claims to have 10% of world fishery and 30% of world trade passes through this region.
Why dispute is there? Well according to united nation convention on the law of the sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) country claims their sea territory up to 200 miles, after that, the rest of the region is international waters which are shared by all. So this same thing was applied in the case of the South China Sea but the things were not as simple in that case. China objected and claimed most of the region by stretching complex 9 dash line, which claimed most of the sea region. This move was taken in 1948 and the world was not happy about it especially the countries which were affected. This nine-dash line was illegal but as china was the one to claim, it started questioning it illegality.
This all started back in 20th century, after world war 2, japan lost all of his part in south china sea and china took advantage and started claiming land by stretching 9 dash line, which covered 90% of the sea. When the united nation passed EEZ in 1973, china ignored it and didn’t give up his claiming. China also refused other nations to claim their land which falls in 9 dash line. Vietnam showed anger after that and started building structure against china’s claiming. This triggered tension and warfare between the two nations. After that, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia also declared ownership of the sea.
This brings us to the most important topic of this issue, about islands in that sea which is claimed by many countries and are severely disputed. Two most important islands are Paracel and Spratly islands. They lie geographically and diplomatically at the heart of the South China Sea. The area which is in the centre of the south china sea is international water, that means whosoever will claim those islands will automatically get that part of international waters because of EEZ. This is what makes paracel and Spartly Island so important. Now according to china’s 9-dash line, those islands falls in that china’s claiming only but the neighboring countries are not in favor of giving that important piece of land to china instead trying to claim that to their own. Now China is trying to forcefully capture that area by building artificial islands. They are building small islands and making some people live there and automatically claiming those as their own.
It was clear that after noticing, the godfather of the globe ‘USA’ won’t sit back and will watch the whole scene with a sigh.so America started their intervention in the area which is far away from their nation and have no connection with that sea. They sailed 12 destroyers near Spratly Island and warned china for these moves. China didn’t care much and continued his strategy. China continued building its air bases on the man-made islands and developed several naval bases with dozens of buildings acting like they were having 1000% of the control of that region. Now china applied their new strategy by the name ‘the cabbage strategy’. In that new strategy, china fully tried to control the sea by making their ships sail and port near the islands over the area. In May 2013, china sent their ships to Ayungin Shoal, which is only 105 miles away from the spartly islands. That island was claimed by the Philippines, in which it had deployed 8 soldiers. China tried to ‘wrap’ that island by making its ships port near to that area so the island will be completely enclosed by Chinese ships. Now, China didn’t stop there but continued the same strategy with other islands too. The same cycle was applied and china tried to control most islands by its naval power. These moves by china irritated Vietnam and Philippines a lot. Now the wave of hate started between both nations and many reports started coming about arrests and disputes of fisherman.
Years passed and in 2015, china passed some things which shocked the world which says that all the airways which passes through the South China Sea must have Chinese permission. So will this dispute have an end? if we look at present circumstances then it doesn’t look like it will have end soon. Many nations and the European Union have suggested solving this dispute only by peace talks but at present movements, those peace talks are getting useless.
(Note- Updates on the topic after the date of publishing have not been recorded.)