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The South China Sea Dispute
• Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island 
and maritime claims among seven sovereign states within...
The interests of different nations include acquiring 
fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the 
potential exploitati...
The disputes involve both maritime boundaries and 
islands. There are several disputes, each of which 
involved a differen...
• Maritime boundary off the coast 
of Palawan and Luzon between the Philippines, China, and 
Taiwan 
• Islands in the nort...
Area of dispute Brunei China Indonesia Malaysia Philippines Taiwan Vietnam 
The nine-dash line area 
✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ 
Maritime b...
Background on South China Sea Islands 
• Two island groups, Paracels and Spratlys. 
• Paracels firmly in Chinese hands sin...
9 
Competing Claims 
• Six governments—Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, 
Malaysia and Brunei have claims, very overlap...
10 
Points of Conflict 
• Dispute began after UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 
guaranteed exploitation rights of under...
11 
ASEAN Views and Efforts 
• ASEAN hesitancy to air dispute in public and confront China, 
although several members feel...
12 
Cont. 
• Philippines feels unable to defend itself due to weaker military. 
• Vietnam fought with China in 1988 and lo...
13 
China’s Statements and Activities 
• Took Paracels by force in 1974 from South Vietnamese 
government. 
• Paracels as ...
14 
Roots of Chinese actions? 
• Garver sees PLAN pushing south, based on bureaucratic 
energies—bases in Zhanjiang—that c...
Cont. 
• In meeting in Shanghai, retired military leaders took hard-line 
position, that they could not give up territorie...
16 
External forces 
• Philippines pulls in U.S., while most ASEAN powers want to keep 
the external powers out of the dis...
17 
How big a threat to regional peace? 
• Dobson and Fravel do not see the South China Sea becoming 
“a Chinese lake.” 
•...
The Conference 
• The two-day conference was held in Hanoi, Vietnam on 17th 
and 18th November, 2014. 
• It featured speec...
MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FROM 
THE CONFERENCE
• China rejected a motion by the Philippines seeking to curb its 
actions in disputed waters. 
• ASEAN Regional Forum got ...
• China won’t budge from its stance on defence and maritime 
rights, Wang said in a statement after meeting with 
counterp...
22 
Potential Solutions 
• Track II negotiations underway under Indonesian lead since 
1990, leading to establishment of w...
References 
• The South China Sea: A sea of disputes | The Economist. 2014. The South China 
Sea: A sea of disputes | The ...
South China Sea Dispute
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South China Sea Dispute

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South China Sea Dispute

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South China Sea Dispute

  1. 1. The South China Sea Dispute
  2. 2. • Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among seven sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. • There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. • There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. CSIS, 2014
  3. 3. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of suspected crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea; and the strategic control of important shipping lanes. US Department of State, 2014
  4. 4. The disputes involve both maritime boundaries and islands. There are several disputes, each of which involved a different collection of countries: • Maritime boundary along the Vietnamese coast between Vietnam, China, and Taiwan. • Maritime boundary in the waters north of the Natuna Islands between Indonesia, China, and Taiwan. • Maritime boundary north of Borneo between Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei. • Islands in the southern reaches of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands between Vietnam, Malaysia, The Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and China. CSIS, 2014
  5. 5. • Maritime boundary off the coast of Palawan and Luzon between the Philippines, China, and Taiwan • Islands in the northern reaches of the South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands between Vietnam, China, and Taiwan • Maritime boundary in the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan, including islands • Land in eastern part of Sabah (formerly North Borneo) between Malaysia and the Philippines • The nine-dash line area claimed by China which covers most of the South China sea and overlaps Exclusive Economic Zone claims of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam CSIS, 2014
  6. 6. Area of dispute Brunei China Indonesia Malaysia Philippines Taiwan Vietnam The nine-dash line area ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Maritime boundary along Vietnamese coast ✔ ✔ ✔ Maritime boundary north of Natuna Islands ✔ ✔ ✔ Maritime boundary north of Borneo ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Maritime boundary off Palawan and Luzon ✔ ✔ ✔ Maritime boundary & islands in Luzon Strait ✔ ✔ Islands in southern South China Sea ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Islands in northern South China Sea ✔ ✔ ✔ Land in eastern Sabah ✔ ✔
  7. 7. Background on South China Sea Islands • Two island groups, Paracels and Spratlys. • Paracels firmly in Chinese hands since January 1974, when China seized islands from South Vietnamese government. • Little land, huge area of water, nations cannot easily station troops. • Need for blue water navy, aircraft that refuel in the air. • Resources: natural gas, oil, fishing. • Important shipping lanes with 15% of world’s trade passing through these sea lanes. • End of Cold War created a power vacuum in the region. The Guardian, 2013
  8. 8. 9 Competing Claims • Six governments—Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have claims, very overlapping. • China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim all the islands—Malaysia, Brunei, and Philippines claim some of them. • Dobson and Fravel--China’s claims ambiguous, refusing to draw clear “exclusive economic zones” (EEZ) to maximize flexibility in negotiations. • China’s claim based on history, artifacts, Zeng Ho voyages. • Goes back to 1930s, but bolstered by March 1992 NPC territorial law affirming China’s claim to the Spratly Islands and authoring the PLAN to use force to protect its sovereignty. The Guardian, 2013
  9. 9. 10 Points of Conflict • Dispute began after UN Convention on the Law of the Sea guaranteed exploitation rights of undersea resources to state’s adjacent waters, so pushed state’s to make public claims to offshore islands. • Law of Sea set 200 mile offshore area as exclusive economic zones (EEZs). • Also gave states sovereign rights over continental shelf. • Before this, China and Vietnam had fought over the Paracel Islands in 1974. US Department of State, 2014
  10. 10. 11 ASEAN Views and Efforts • ASEAN hesitancy to air dispute in public and confront China, although several members feel threatened. • Indonesia sought to carry out “confidence building measures” after 1991 to keep dispute from exploding but these efforts have had limited success. • 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea called on all states to settle disputes peacefully and support regional cooperation. • Philippines (and Vietnam) as most strenuous resistor of China’s efforts. • 1995, President Ramos went on public television to challenge China in Mischief Reef. • In 1998, Philippines took journalists to see China’s building of naval platforms at Mischief Reef, well inside Philippines 200 mile zone. The Economist, 2013
  11. 11. 12 Cont. • Philippines feels unable to defend itself due to weaker military. • Vietnam fought with China in 1988 and lost 6 islands. Major conflict with China over oil exploration. • Vietnamese problems seen in isolation by ASEAN, until China took Mischief Reef (Philippine’s claim) and until Vietnam joined ASEAN. • Now, as member of ASEAN, Vietnam tries to use ASEAN to defend its interests, but receives only limited support. Feels it must “bandwagon” on this issue. • Critical role of Hangzhou meeting in April 1995, where ASEAN criticized China behind closed doors. • ASEAN maintains somewhat united front versus China and before the Asian Crisis was buying lots of weapons. The Economist, 2013
  12. 12. 13 China’s Statements and Activities • Took Paracels by force in 1974 from South Vietnamese government. • Paracels as key base for military support in Spratlys. • China professes conciliatory policy but most aggressive in pursuing military solutions. • 1990, Li Peng offered to resolve conflict peacefully • Defense Chief, in 1993, Chi Haotian promised that China would not use force. • July 1995, Qian Qichen told ASEAN that China would insure freedom of navigation. • May 1996, China ratified the Law of the Sea Convention CSIS, 2014
  13. 13. 14 Roots of Chinese actions? • Garver sees PLAN pushing south, based on bureaucratic energies—bases in Zhanjiang—that cannot be constrained by the central government. • Could also increase PLAN demand for funding. • Dobson and Fravel call this a “talk and take” policy, and see it due to bureaucratic conflict between PLA Navy (PLAN) and the MOFA. • Also see PLAN independence on Spratlys as pay-off to PLA for supporting CCP in Tiananmen crackdown. • Sovereignty issues, relating to “century of humiliation,” — creates support for claims for Taiwan as well, which also appeal to nationalism—key source of CCP legitimacy. CSIS, 2014
  14. 14. Cont. • In meeting in Shanghai, retired military leaders took hard-line position, that they could not give up territories that might be claimed by the next generation of Chinese. • China keeps issue off multilateral agendas, preferring bilateral discussions. CSIS, 2014
  15. 15. 16 External forces • Philippines pulls in U.S., while most ASEAN powers want to keep the external powers out of the dispute. • U.S. as hegemon, feels need to prevent conflict and insure right of passage for all vessels. • U.S. Defense Dept. in 1995 said the U.S. would insure free navigation by escorting ships through the South China Sea if conflicts broke out. • Japanese enhanced security agreement with U.S. could get them more involved in minesweeping and other support activity. • Vietnam tried to pull U.S. in by giving oil concessions to U.S. oil companies. US Department of State, 2014
  16. 16. 17 How big a threat to regional peace? • Dobson and Fravel do not see the South China Sea becoming “a Chinese lake.” • Much activity to date is establishing claims, outposts and then threatening other country’s citizens who come too close to claimed territories. • Conflict limited by China’s limited capabilities--”even if China were the hegemon some believe it to be, its military is incapable of filling a hegemon’s shoes.” • China has no aircraft carrier, but it does have power to refuel in the air. US Department of State, 2014
  17. 17. The Conference • The two-day conference was held in Hanoi, Vietnam on 17th and 18th November, 2014. • It featured speeches by senior administration officials, and remarks and discussion by an all-star line-up of South China Sea experts, including representatives from China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. • The focus of the discussion was ideas for resolving differences between the six claimants in the South China Sea.
  18. 18. MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FROM THE CONFERENCE
  19. 19. • China rejected a motion by the Philippines seeking to curb its actions in disputed waters. • ASEAN Regional Forum got underway. • Philippines called for disputes to be resolved within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. • China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called the motion premature. • As negotiations stalled, China continued to assert its claims with ships, an oil rig and by building structures on rocks in waters thought to be rich in oil and gas. CSIS, 2014
  20. 20. • China won’t budge from its stance on defence and maritime rights, Wang said in a statement after meeting with counterparts from ASEAN. • China is keen to use a “dual-track” policy to resolve the situation in the South China Sea and doesn’t approve of anybody attempting to heighten tensions there, Wang said in a separate statement. • “It’s no understatement that what happens here matters not just to this region and to the U.S. but it matters to everybody in the world,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry CSIS, 2014
  21. 21. 22 Potential Solutions • Track II negotiations underway under Indonesian lead since 1990, leading to establishment of working groups on resource assessment and development, marine scientific research, environmental protection, biodiversity research, and legal matters. • Concept of joint exploration, setting aside territorial claims, put forward by Li Peng in 1990 • But quite unclear what “joint exploration” means in practice. • Valencia’s solution of a Spratly Management Authority (SMA) to administer the region, with countries holding shares in the authority and getting profits from resources. • Current debate on ways to establish a “code of conduct” for states in the region. US Department of State, 2014
  22. 22. References • The South China Sea: A sea of disputes | The Economist. 2014. The South China Sea: A sea of disputes | The Economist. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/02/south_china_sea. [Accessed 20 November 2014]. • Managing Tensions in the South China Sea | Center for Strategic and International Studies. 2014. Managing Tensions in the South China Sea | Center for Strategic and International Studies. [ONLINE] Available at: http://csis.org/event/managing-tensions-south-china-sea. [Accessed 20 November 2014]. • Fourth Annual South China Sea Conference. 2014. Fourth Annual South China Sea Conference. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2014/07/229129.htm. [Accessed 20 November 2014]. • China Rejects Push at Asean to Curb South China Sea Activity - Bloomberg . 2014. China Rejects Push at Asean to Curb South China Sea Activity - Bloomberg . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014- 08-09/south-china-sea-tension-seen-dominating-asean-ministers-meeting. html. [Accessed 20 November 2014].

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