Economic conflicts over the South China Rānāghāt
Economic conflicts over the South China sea
BA(HONS)in Economics and politics,
Visva Bharati University.
It’s important as tensions rise in the South China Sea, we need to understand how this complexity began and what international law says about freedom of navigation and competing for maritime claims in the waters. The view we have for the last couple of decades is not that much clear one, in fact, In 1982, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted and signed, formalising extended maritime resource claims in international law. At this time, no fewer than six states had laid claim to the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea. Since then, it has been a creeping militarisation of the waters by nations seeking to secure extended maritime resource zones. In 2009, Vietnam began reclaiming land around some of the 48 small islands it had occupied since the 1970s. On the other hand with a vital response, China began its much larger reclamations on submerged features it first began to occupy in the 1980s. By around 2016, these reclamations had resulted in three military-grade, mid-ocean airfields that sent shockwaves around the world, provoked in part by China breaking its own pledge not to militarise the islands. So what brings all these countries so much despair about this conflict? The answer is simple. The South China Sea is a marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean. It is bounded in the north by the shores of South China, in the west by the Indochinese Peninsula, in the east by the islands of Taiwan and northwestern Philippines (mainly Luzon, Mindoro and Palawan), and in the south by Borneo, eastern Sumatra and the Bangka Belitung Islands, encompassing an area of around 3,500,000 km2. It communicates with the East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait, the Philippine Sea via the Luzon Strait, the Sulu Sea via the straits around Palawan, the Indian Ocean via the Strait of Malacca, and the Java Sea via the Karimata and Bangka Strait. The Gulf of Tonkin and Gulf of Thailand are both parts of the South China Sea, and its shallow waters south of the Natuna Sea. The South China Sea is a region of tremendous economic and geostrategic importance. One-third of the world's maritime shipping passes through it, carrying over USD $3 trillion in trade each year. Huge oil and natural gas reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed. It also contains lucrative fisheries, which are crucial for the food security of millions in Southeast Asia. The South China Sea Islands, collectively comprising several archipelago clusters of mostly small uninhabited islands, islets (cays and shoals), reefs/atolls and seamounts numbering in the hundreds, are subject to competing claims of sovereignty by several countries. These claims are also reflected in the variety of names used for the islands and the sea. Japan and South Korea rely heavily on the South China Sea for their supply of fuels and raw materials and as an export route, although the availability of diversionary sea lanes bypassing the South China Sea provides non-littoral states with some flexibility in this regard. So it’s clear that the economic gateway for many countries is lying under the seabed of the south china sea. So geographically the sea plays a vital eco-political role here. The South China Sea has been a longstanding source of tension and distrust in the region Competing for claims of territorial sovereignty over islands for more than a couple of decades. The UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), which was formed in 1982 and came into force in 1994, established a framework intended to balance the economic and security interests of coastal states with those of seafaring nations. UNCLOS enshrines the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a 200 nautical mile area that extends sole exploitation rights to coastal nations over marine resources. However, this exclusive zone was never intended to serve as a security zone, UNCLOS also guarantees wide-ranging passage rights for naval vessels and military aircraft.
In 2010 spring, “PRC reportedly communicated to United State officials that the South China Sea was "an area of non-negotiable 'core interest', with Taiwan and Tibet on the national agenda. However, Beijing appears to have backed away from that assertion in 2011”. Again after a year and a half around 2012 October the PRC's Global Times newspaper, published by the Communist Party People's Daily group, editorialised on South China Sea territorial disputes under the banner "Don't take peaceful approach for granted". The article referenced incidents earlier that year involving the Philippines and South Korea detaining PRC fishing boats in the region. "If these countries don't want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sounds of cannons. We need to be ready for that, as it may be the only way for the disputes in the sea to be resolved.
In the bigger context, a BBC journalist writes, “the Trump administration has pledged to overturn what it says is 40 years of policy failure concerning China. Washington has recently criticised Beijing on issues ranging from its handling of the coronavirus pandemic to human rights violations against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and how it has dealt with pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. But it was China's land reclamation projects in the South China Sea that prompted the rest of the world to reassess Beijing's international ambitions. And the stakes in the region are incredibly high. In these seemingly insignificant island chains and reefs, there are growing risks of military conflict between the world's two most powerful countries”.(Zhaoyin Feng, BBC Chinese)
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