- China has placed surface to air missile batteries on woody islands.
- Woody Island is a link in the disputed paracel island chain in the south china sea.
- They are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam
- since 1974, woody islands are under Chinese control
- china has been extending coastline artificially by building on reefs etc
- US has accused China of militarising south china sea. As a counter allegation China has accused U.S as well of militarising the region, citing the passing-by of U.S Naval destroyer close to South China Sea
- 5 trillion dollars of international trade passing through this region annually, making it a very crucial geo-economic corridor
WHY IS THE WORLD WORRIED ABOUT CHINESE INFLUENCE IN THIS REGION?
- Its economic rise is spectacular, but, whether its rise would be peaceful or not is a skeptical thought.
- According to experts, it is a long term grand strategy followed by China. To stake claims and back it up. Then to allow the waters to calm down and then militarise the region.
- Vietnamese are not very happy about Chinese historical claims about islands. Vietnam has a long history of fighting the Chinese expansionism. Chinese are fanning these fears further and that is why Vietnam is alarmed.
- Phillipines also lost michief reef to china earlier and China conquered it by force. So its natural for Phillipines to be alarmed
- It is not under the sovereign right of any country
- Only 12 nautical miles from coast is considered as sovereign zone of any country
- The issue is China, Phillipines and Vietnam claim south china sea to be a territorial sea.
- This has implications for international trade and navigation
- 5 trillion dollars of trade will have to seek the permission of the Vietnam, and china, if the region is militarised
- There are salami tactics which china has been using for a long time-like sending chinese tourists to disputed islands and oil rigs etc.
WHAT DOES MILITARISATION ACTUALLY MEAN AND HOW IS IT A PROBLEM HERE?
- Other countries like Vietnam have also encroached South China sea, but they have not militarised to the extent that china does.
(For eg: China has extended the run way of woody islands to 2000m. This can be used to land fighter jets)
- U.S has access to military bases in Asia. For eg in Taiwan, in Thailand and so on. so how is it a problem if china militarises? Some experts counter this claim saying that U.S has historical reference and legal claims to back its asian presence. Its presence is as a treaty post the world war 2. What china claims is not based on empirical facts or proofs
- However, some other foreign policy elites say that U.S.A is raising an alarm to suppress china’s rise. It is a part of the grand strategy of the “Pivot to Asia”
The reason for chinese expansionism :
- It claims historical presence in those islands.
- It can dominate the major trade routes through which majority of the oil is traded
- It will have high levels of bargaining powers with respect to large parts of south asia
- The possibility of rich natural resources like oil and natural gas in the region .
Why ASEAN countries are not pursuaded by the USA to push back china?
- There was a meeting in california recently to bring on board ASEAN countries but countries like Laos and cambodia are not coming on board
- Chief reasons are that:
- Laos and Cambodia are small and not militarily powerful
- They have trade linkages with china which they dont want to loose
- They are a trading bloc countries and not a security bloc. Further, they are not claimants to south china sea
- ASEAN remains a divided house
What is India’s Stake in the region?
- We have 55pc of trade passing through this region. Therefore, we need to support freedom of navigation
- The ONGC exploration in Vietnam is also at stake
What Should India do?
- we have pumped in 5bn dollars in Vietnam oil blocks
- Despite having signed joint vision statement with the US about Pacific and Indian ocean we should not go for joint patrolling with USA
- Some experts suggest joint patrolling with USA, whereas some others suggest only having a joint naval exercises with Vietnam to prevent any Chinese aggression that can hurt India’s interests.
OTHER USEFUL ARTICLES: The diplomat-Who is militarizing the south china sea?
PRACTISE QUESTION: The south china sea dispute is a geo-strategic puzzle. In the light of Pivot to Asia doctrine of the USA, examine the consequences for India and give suggestions for India to resolve the challenge.