Establishing peaceful measures to address the South China Sea territorial dispute
The South China Sea dispute is a territorial dispute over a busy waterway. Goods worth over $5.3 trillion pass through the area and contribute to 10 percent of the world's fish trade. Natural resources are abundant in the South China Sea. The US Energy Information Agency estimates “there are some 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves under the sea, exceeding what some of the world's biggest energy exporters have.” Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region such as, Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
The disputes are on the many islands, reefs, banks, and other features of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and various boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin. There are further disputes, including the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands, which is often regarded as not a part of the South China Sea. Surrounding states are interested in acquiring the rights to fishing areas, the explorationof crude oil and natural gas in the seabed of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.
The disputes in the South China Sea have the potential to start a larger conflict. Multiple regions have issues of sovereignty and seem not to be any closer to a legal resolution. Stakes are high due to the fact that the Sea is one of the primary routes for international trade, and many regions believe that the Sea hides bountiful oil reserves and fishing opportunities. The disputes are further entrenched by nationalism, as each region has a symbolic value to the South China Sea islands that far exceeds their objective material wealth.And, finally, the disputes are also triggered by the great power politics as China and the United States begin to argue with each other for control of the international order. The Trump administration has stated...“send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” Statements such as these have built tensions between the two global powers and contribute to the United States’s role in the issue.
China’s Stand China claims the waters saying the area is within its "nine-dash line", which extends hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan. Nine-dash lines are the dashes that demarcate virtually all of the South China Sea as Chinese territory, under the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Seas, or UNCLOS. China has been taking what analysts say are "passive-aggressive" steps, which is to use fishing vessels and oil rigs to change the status quo on the ground and assert sovereignty over the area. China has repeated the fact time and again that it has had rights to the territories for centuries a claim that is opposed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
Philippines Stand China wants to negotiate directly with the Philippines and each of the four other claimants in an arrangement that would give it leverage for its sheer size and influence. Beijing has opposed bringing the disputes to an international arena, which could provide the US a chance to intervene.
India’s Stand India's discomfort has increased sharply because New Delhi finds that what China is doing in the South China Sea is being replicated in spirit and tactics on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which goes through territory claimed by India. While India does not want to escalate tensions by challenging China on the South China Sea, it worries whether anybody will support India's stand on CPEC.
Global Impact Most countries have generally taken a position on the case depending on whether they're aligned with the US or China. The issue has put smaller countries and regional blocs in a dilemma, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose four member states are claimants. A Philippine push for the 10-nation bloc to issue a joint statement calling for China to respect Tuesday's ruling has stalled with Cambodia and Laos backing the Chinese position. Besides the Philippines and Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have also been wary of China.
Guiding Questions 1) If your country is involved (Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam), what resources do they desire? 2) If your country is not directly involved, who do they support in the dispute and why? 3) What is your country’s stance on the economic gain China receives from claiming areas of the sea? 4) How can your country contribute to the issue? 5) What framework can your country provide to resolve this issue? 6) Does your country have any history of territorial dispute? If so, what measures did they take to solve it? 7) How can your country benefit from a solution to the South China Sea territorial dispute? 8) How will your countries international policies affect the way your country approaches this issue? 9) How will your country prevent the possibility of violence during this dispute? 10) What countries can you create an alliance in order to resolve this issue?