From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : South China Sea
Mains level : South China Sea Dispute
Pentagon chief has said that Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea have “no basis in international law”, taking aim at China’s growing assertiveness in the hotly contested waters.
South China Sea Dispute
- 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.
- China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei all have competing claims.
- Alongside the fully-fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks, and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal.
- China claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.
- Beijing says its right to the area goes back centuries to when the Paracel and Spratly island chains were regarded as integral parts of the Chinese nation, and in 1947 it issued a map detailing its claims.
- It showed the two island groups falling entirely within its territory. Those claims are mirrored by Taiwan.
Spat over Chinese claims
- China has backed its expansive claims with island-building and naval patrols.
- The US says it does not take sides in territorial disputes but has sent military ships and planes near disputed islands, calling them “freedom of navigation” operations to ensure access to key shipping and air routes.
- Both sides have accused each other of “militarizing” the South China Sea.
- There are fears that the area is becoming a flashpoint, with potentially serious global consequences.