South China Sea Dispute: Notes for UPSC

The South China Sea dispute is regarded by strategic affairs experts as a “flashpoint for the next global conflict”. There are so many factions involved, that the outbreak of hostilities between anyone will lead to a conflict that will draw in the allies of these factions, leading to a long protracted war. This article will give brief details about the dispute.

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What is the South China Sea Dispute all about?

The South China Sea dispute involves island and maritime claims by China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The dispute involves Paracel and Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal, and Natuna Islands. China has started building islands in Spratly and Paracel Island regions which invited international condemnation of Chinese actions. Due to Chinese assertions in the region, France, USA, UK has started conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the disputed South China Sea.

Why is the South China Sea so important?

The South China Sea is extremely important due to the trade carried and resources available in this region. The importance of the region is listed below.

  1. It has proven oil reserves of around 7.7 billion barrels.
  2. Estimate oil reserves of around 28 billion barrels
  3. Natural gas reserves estimated to be 266 trillion cubic feet
  4. One-third of the world’s shipping passes in this region, carrying over $ 3 trillion trade each year.
  5. Availability of fish in the region is crucial for the food security of millions in the region.

What Does China Claim in the South China Sea?

The South China Sea has over 250 small islands, atolls, reefs, shoals. The dispute between China and the Philippines is primarily over Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal. Paracel Islands are subject of dispute between China, Vietnam and Taiwan. On the maps, China asserts control over the South China Sea until 10 dash line, which China asserts is based on historical usage.

What is UNCLOS?

UNCLOS stands for United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. It came into force in 1994. As of 2016, there are 167 countries and the European Union that are members of this convention. It defines the rights of nations with respect to their use and management of maritime natural resources.

Frequently Asked Questions about South China Sea issue

Is the South China Sea a regional issue?

China’s actions in the South China Sea are no longer just a regional issue. The South China Sea Arbitration case decided on July 12, 2016 was an arbitration case brought against China for its effective control of maritime features in the South China Sea that are part of a territorial dispute

What is China’s claim on South China Sea based on?

China’s claim to the sea is based both on the Law of the Sea Convention and its so-called “nine-dash” line. This line extends for 2,000 kilometers from the Chinese mainland, encompassing over half of the sea. … This concept is important: it means that by definition, the South China Sea is a shared maritime space.

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