South China Sea Disputes

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International Studies 1

Position Paper
South China Sea Dispute

Buela, Mark Angelo Tan Professor: Catherine Telan I.S. 1213 July 15, 2013

Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries - but a recent upsurge in tension has sparked concern that the area is becoming a flashpoint with global consequences. It is a dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas and the Paracels and the Spratlys - two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries. Alongside the fully fledged islands, there are dozens of uninhabited rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal. The territorial disputes in the South China Sea mainly involve seven sovereign states: China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. The main contentious areas are the islands of Spratlys and Paracels, and also continental reefs and sandbanks such as the Scarborough Shoal. Apart from the issue of sovereignty, another important cause of the dispute is that these islands and their exclusive economic zones, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1, have significant energy resources in the form of vast oil and natural gas reserves. The region also serves as a strategic zone for maritime trade and surveillance. The most aggressive states in claiming sovereignty over these disputed areas have been China, Vietnam and the Philippines. China has claimed the largest portion of the area, including all the parts of the sea within the so called ‘nine-dashed line’2. It bases this on “historical rights” to the Spratlys and the Paracels. Taiwan makes similar claims. Vietnam refuses to acknowledge this, saying that both...
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