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South China Sea Dispute:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered: Effects of policies of developed nations.



The violations of international law, as well as foreign interference in the disputed waters of the South China Sea by China, has led many South-East Asian nations to oppose Beijing’s military activities in the area.

  • Countries that share the South China Sea, such as Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, and Taiwan, feel that China’s “hegemonic” actions affect their economic prospects as well as threaten sovereign rights.
  • The conflict is likely to escalate due to the dispute over undecided boundaries.


Recent faceoffs:

  • Vietnam took a strong exception to the military drill by Chinese forces, as they were carried out in an area that overlaps with Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.
  • The Philippines had confronted China over intrusion in EEZ after domestic pressure demanded retaliation.


What’s the issue?

Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with several Southeast Asian states in the South China Sea.

  • China claims almost all of the resource-rich sea, through which trillions of dollars in shipping trade passes annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
  • Beijing has also been accused of deploying a range of military hardware, including anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles there, and ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the waters to be without basis.


Where is the South China Sea?

  • The South China Sea is an arm of western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia.
  • It is south of China, east & south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and north of the island of Borneo.
  • It is connected by Taiwan Strait with the East China Sea and by Luzon Strait with the Philippine Sea.
  • Bordering states & territories: the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.


Strategic Importance:

  • This sea holds tremendous strategic importance for its location as it is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean (Strait of Malacca).
  • According to the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) one-third of the global shipping passes through it, carrying trillions of trade which makes it a significant geopolitical water body.


Contesting Claims Over Islands:

  • The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
  • The Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Philippines.
  • The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by the Philippines, China and Taiwan.

Since 2010, China has been converting uninhabited islets into artificial islets to bring it under UNCLOS (For example, Haven Reef, Johnson South Reef and Fiery Cross Reef).


2016 ruling:

The international tribunal in The Hague in 2016 ruled that the said ‘Line’ had no legal basis.

However, after refusing to accept the ruling, China continued with its activities including the creation of artificial islands.


Insta Curious:

Do you know the meaning of the phrase ‘The Seven Seas’? Read Here

Have you given a thought about how seas are names and their associated problems? Read Briefly



Prelims Link:

  1. About the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
  2. Countries involved in the dispute.
  3. What is the nine dash line?
  4. Disputed islands and their locations?
  5. Important straits, passes and seas in the region.
  6. What is UNCLOS?
  7. Locate Taiwan strait and Luzon Strait.

Mains Link:

Write a note on the South China Sea dispute.

Sources: Indian Express.