South China Sea Abigail Morse

The issue with the South China Sea is that the countries surrounding it can’t decide whose territory it actually is. This shows the legacy of fighting for territory that has been in China for many centuries. This legacy carried on starting with the many dynasties that rose and fell over wars that were about gaining the territory that the emperor ruled over. The reason why countries want to have territory in the South China Sea is because it has great trade routes, fishing grounds, oil reserves, and gas reserves. And in order to gain territory, the other countries want to claim access to islands, coral reefs, and lagoons within the South China Sea. The other part of the problem is that China has claimed almost all of the sea with a nine-dash line on all maps that supposedly surrounds their water territory.

The Philippines are one country who are arguing with China about territory in the South China Sea. Just last year the Philippines won an arbitration saying that China only had limited territory around their islands in the South China Sea, but China ignored those rulings. Vietnam has also been troubled by China’s power over the sea, but recently the two countries have been trying to settle their different opinions by working together while finding resources in the South China Sea. Cambodia is one country who doesn’t mind China’s claim of the sea as much, because it seems that Cambodia is trying to get on China’s good side. Just recently Cambodia even stopped doing their normal military practice routine with the US just to do a similar one with China, improving their coworking abilities even more. Japan is also trying to solve the dispute by giving all of the involved countries vessels to patrol their waters.

The Nine-Dash Line

Another dispute in the South China Sea is about the islands that China is taking control over and the manmade ones that are being built. Multiple countries are upset by the fact that China has put anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on their artificial islands. China claims that they are just there to ensure the security of their waters in the South China Sea. And when other countries doubt that the nine-dash line is China’s actual territory, China simply says that the line is outlining the waters that historically belong to them and that makes their claim to the sea ‘irrefutable’.

The US believes that China shouldn’t have power over international waters, so they want to revoke China’s access to land forms like the Scarborough Shoal, which China has made into an artificial island. China shouldn’t be able to take the Scarborough Shoal because it can’t actually claim territory even with manmade parts because the land itself isn’t large enough to do it. Except the US doesn’t know of a way to stop China’s construction without waging war. And just recently the US was doing research with an autonomously controlled drone in the waters just outside of the nine-dash line when a Chinese ship seized it. China was upset that a drone was intruding on their waters, but there has been an argument over whether it was legal to take it or not because the incident was very close to being outside of China’s claimed territory. In the end China says that the US should stay out of their problems in the South China Sea and let them solve the dispute with closer countries by one on one negotiations.

US Drone

This dispute is important because we don’t want any of the countries that are unhappy with the territories in the South China Sea to wage another devastating war over territory. And we also don’t want China to use its islands to unfairly claim the entire sea and all of its resources. This issue is also important because however the US handles it could affect how other countries perceive and negotiate with them for the next decade.

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