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What is "South China Sea dispute" ?

news-details Image Source Apr 29, 2020 19:17 IST , Updated: Apr 23, 2021 19:17 IST · 3 min read

According to People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, they have used ships and aircraft to "track, monitor, verify, identify and expel" a U.S. warship from the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.

What is "South China Sea dispute" ?

South China Sea dispute is a disagreement among several sovereign states in the area over their claims on low-tide elevations, seabed, islands, reefs, banks and maritime located in the marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean.

The dispute includes Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Scarborough Shoal and various boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Natuna Islands near the Indonesian water is also disputed even if it is not a part of the South China Sea.

Countries involved in different, sometimes overlapping disputes are - Brunei, People's Republic of China (PRC), Republic of China (Taiwan), Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam.

China claims 80 per cent of the area, Vietnam claims Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, Philippines claims the Spratly archipelago and the Scarborough Shoal and Brunei and Malaysia claims Spratly Islands and over southern parts of the sea.

The South China Sea makes up the body of water in the Pacific Ocean that lies east of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and west of the island of Borneo, this part of the Pacific covers 3,500,000 square kilometres spreading from Malacca straits to the Strait of Taiwan.

South China Sea is of tremendous strategic importance because of hosting important global trade routes passes through it, lucrative fisheries (12% of the world) and huge oil and gas reserves in seabeds.

With 17.4 percent of the world's marine catch, China is currently the largest producer and exporter of fish in the world. The sea and its islands (mostly uninhabited) are claimed by a number of countries including China.

Around one third of the global maritime trade worth 3.37 trillion US Dollar passes through the sea every year, mostly through the strategic Strait of Malacca. The Strait of Malacca is a narrow, 550 mi stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Sumatra island of Indonesian.

China seeks the control in the area to secure its, 80 percent of energy imports and 39.5 percent of total trade that passes through the South China Sea every year.

Since 2013, China has increased its militarily presence into the South China Sea by building up facilities and artificial islands on the Paracel and Spratly island region, the action was opposed by international community including USA and France.

Paracels are a group of islands east of Vietnam administered by China but claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. The Spratly Islands are a group of several islands, islets, cays and more than 100 reefs close to Borneo.

China has also constructed a series of artificial islands throughout the Paracel and Spratly island region, a move provoking strong reactions from China's neighbours particularly the Philippines.

These artificial islands are build atop already existing, islands, rocks and coral reefs - by picking up and move materials from the seafloor through a fleet of dredgers and ships.

China is using these artificial islands to extend its military capabilities in the South China Sea by constructing airstrips, radar arrays, and buildings on them.

On July 12, 2016, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled against the China's maritime claims in Philippines vs China case, but China and Taiwan refused to recognize the tribunal (Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague) and insisted to solve the matter through bilateral negotiations.

The same tribunal also ruled that China has no legal basis to claim "historic rights" within its nine-dash line. The line covers most of the South China Sea and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claimed by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

The nine-dash line is a U-shaped vaguely located 2,000km long demarcation line stretched from the Chinese mainland to waters close to Indonesia and Malaysia. The line is used by countries in the region specially Taiwan and China for their claims of the major part of the South China Sea.

The contested area also known as the "Great Wall of Sand" includes the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Island the Pratas Islands, the Macclesfield Bank, the Scarborough Shoal and various other areas.

Recent Development

Philippine is willing to deploy military ships to the South China Sea to assert the country?s claim over oil deposits in a contested part of the waterway.

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