Chinese Territorial Assertions:
The Case of the Mischief Reef Author: By B.Raman, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
Date: 14 January 1999 China has on-going disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei regarding conflicting claims of sovereignty over different islands in the Spratly group in the South China Sea, but its assertion of its claim over the Mischief Reef at the expense of the Philippines is an educative case study of how China doggedly pursues its irredentist territorial claims - by stealth, if possible, and by other means, including force, if necessary. The Spratly group consists of 12 main islands and 390 islets, banks, reefs, shoals and cays, of which only 33 permanently rise above the sea and only seven of these have an area of more than 0.5 sq.kms. The islands and other features lie in an area of about 400 nautical miles from East to West and about 500 nautical miles from North to South. The sea areas contained by these features constitute about 38 per cent of the South China Sea. According to legal experts, the 33 features, which are permanently above the sea, would be entitled, under international law, to have 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, while 26 of these could have Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf claims. None of the other features could have any such entitlement since they are not permanently above the sea. Widely conflicting estimates of huge oil and gas deposits in the area, which could make it as rich as the Kuwait region , are yet to be proved by exploration. Amongst those to have made such claims are the Chinese Ministry for Geology and Mineral Resources (oil and gas reserves of 17.7 billion tonnes as against Kuwait's 13 billion tonnes), some scientists of the Russian Research Institute of Geology of Foreign Countries (at least 10 billion tonnes) , Ji Guoxing, Director of the Asia-Pacific Department of the Shanghai Institute For International Studies (10 billion tonnes of oil and 25... [continues]
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