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South China Sea dispute

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

South China Sea dispute

What to study?

For Prelims: What is the dispute all about, countries involved.

For Mains: Concerns of various countries involved in the dispute, ways to address them.

Context: In the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, China has been busy increasing its presence in the South China Sea.

If the dispute were to aggravate, Asia-Pacific researchers believe it could have serious consequences for diplomatic relations and stability in the region.


What’s the issue now?

The focus this time is on two disputed archipelagos of the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands in the middle of the South China Sea waters, between the territory of Vietnam and the Philippines.

Beijing unilaterally renamed 80 islands and other geographical features in the area, drawing criticism from neighbouring countries who have also laid claim to the same territory.

What is the Spratly Islands dispute about?

  • The ongoing territorial dispute is between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands archipelago and nearby geographical features like corals reefs, cays etc.
  • Brunei has contained its objections to the use of its maritime waters for commercial fishing.
  • The islands may have large reserves of untapped natural resources including oil.

What is the Paracel Islands dispute about?

Located in the South China Sea, almost equidistant from China and Vietnam.

Beijing says that references to the Paracel Islands as a part of China sovereign territory can be found in 14th century writings from the Song Dynasty.

Vietnam on the other hand, says that historical texts from at least the 15th century show that the islands were a part of its territory.

With increased tensions accelerated by Colonial powers, China and Vietnam fought over their territorial disputes in January 1974 after which China took over control of the islands.

  1. In retaliation, in 1982, Vietnam said it had extended its administrative powers over these islands.
  2. In 1999, Taiwan jumped into the fray laying its claim over the entire archipelago.
  3. Since 2012, China, Taiwan and Vietnam have attempted to reinforce their claims on the territory by engaging in construction of government administrative buildings, tourism, land reclamation initiatives and by establishing and expanding military presence on the archipelago.

Understanding UNCLOS:

United Nation Convention on the Laws of the Sea defines the rights, responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, environment, and the management of marine natural resources.


Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Countries involved in the dispute.
  2. What is nine dash line?
  3. Disputed islands and their locations?
  4. Important straits, passes and seas in the region.
  5. What is UNCLOS?

Mains Link:

Write a note on South China Sea dispute.

Sources: Indian Express.