South China Sea Case Study

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1. Background The South China Sea (SCS) is the scene for continuing sovereignty and territorial disputes over islands and ocean among six nations surrounding the sea. As can be seen on the map, the claims of these nations overlap, which consequently causes conflicts in the region. The core of the dispute lies in China’s claim of almost the entire sea territory including the two main island chains, the Spratly and the Paracel. A “nine-dash line”, drawn in 1947 by Kuomintang, presents these claims, which China justifies by arguing that both the islands were regarded as integral parts of the Chinese nation already 2000 years ago . Taiwan bases its claims on the same rights as China, while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei base their…show more content…
is its strategic importance since it links Northeast Asia and the western Pacific to the Indian Ocean and the Middle East, allowing the U.S. to cooperate with these regions through the sea lanes . Moreover, the SCS, because of its connection of continents, is of great importance for world trade. In fact, the SCS is one of the busiest international sea lines in the world , as more than half of the world’s shipping tonnage transits the SCS each year, which is twice the amount that goes through the Suez Canal and three times the amount that passes the Panama Canal . The fact that 23 percent of total trade that is passing through the SCS is U.S. trade, demonstrates the nation’s dependence on this sea-lane . Moreover, the sea is rich in oil and natural gas and home to fishing grounds that provide the livelihoods of people across the region . Resources in the SCS are mostly undiscovered by now but the potential is immense. The estimations of natural resources vary greatly, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), for example, estimates the SCS to contain 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 11 billion barrels of oil , while the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) made even higher estimates of natural gas reserves around 500 trillion cubic feet and around 125 billion barrels of oil reserves . The resources are less important for the U.S. but the fact that numerous U.S. companies are involved in oil and…show more content…
sees its interests jeopardized by the ongoing disputes among the claimants in the SCS. Especially China, the largest claimant, gives increasing cause for concern. Unlike the other costal states that base their claims on EEZ under the UNCLOS, China’s claims are based on historical rights that are not compatible with the law, which makes it difficult to negotiate with China. Moreover, contrary to other states in the SCS, China actively enforces its claims, which is mirrored in many past events . Its aggressive and coercive behavior provokes the other claimants and increases the likelihood of a clash. As already mentioned above, if China succeeded in pushing through its claims, it may be able to block the access of U.S. naval vessels and aircraft through most of the SCS, and thereby undermining freedom of navigation with severe consequences

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