A historic dispute has recently reawakened with a vengeanceby Josh Lowe / November 3, 2015 / Leave a comment
Isn’t there some tension there?
Yes. The US has announced that it plans to continue to patrol areas of the South China Sea, a section of the Pacific Ocean near Singapore and Taiwan, over which China has staked a territorial claim. The announcement follows a US mission last week in which the destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, a natural feature landscaped and built on by China. The US does not recognise territorial claims over Subi and other “artificial islands” in the area. The sea has become a flashpoint in generally deteriorating US-China relations.
How did this all come about?
The South China Sea has been a disputed territory for centuries, but competition has got more intense in recent decades. Two island chains in the sea, the Paracels and the Spratlys (Subi is part of the latter) are claimed in whole or part by a range of regional powers including China, Vietnam and Taiwan. Chinese authorities drew a “nine-dash line” in 1947 which stakes claim to a huge range of territory including both island chains, and since then there have been numerous clashes. But since 2014, when China stepped up military exercises and moved to install an airstrip and harbour capable of supporting military craft in the Spratlys, this has escalated. China has moved an oil rig into disputed territory near the Paracel islands, triggering huge protests in Vietnam. Prospect outlined the escalation in its “Big ideas of 2015” feature last ye…