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Confrontation in the South China Sea | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Confrontation in the South China Sea

International friction over China building and fortifying airbases on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea is leading to a confrontation between the United States and China over the issue of international maritime borders and territorial sea limits.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has vigorously defended the 12-nautical mile limit of territorial sea claims based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Conflicts in Libya, the Persian Gulf and other areas have referenced the territorial sea claim to ensure the safety of neutral shipping and prevent aggressive behavior from regional powers.

Chinese expansion into the South China Seas has been an ongoing process for the last decade. The Chinese military and government act aggressively until another nation calls them on it. The Chinese claim they will back down, but never fully do. This behavior leads us to the current situation.

South China SeaThe Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly chain has been built up and an airstrip – usable by the Chinese military – has been constructed on the reef. Fiery Cross has been claimed by China, Vietnam, Brunei and other political states in the area. The Chinese built a remote weather station on the island in 1987 which led to skirmishes with Vietnam who also wanted to build on the island.

In late 2014, dredging and construction on the airstrip and a potential deep water harbor for the island began. Condemned by the international community, China has responded by claiming the reef, as well as most of the South China Sea, is within the traditional borders of the state. The notorious nine-dash line has been used for these types of claims before, but it appears that China is not backing down this time.

Most of the area that has been claimed by China lies outside of both the 12-nautical mile limit and the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone established by the United Nations. China has put forward claims that it has historically ruled the area. Claims that have been disputed by Vietnam and other countries.

The United States has responded by saying they would conduct Freedom of Navigation exercises in and around Fiery Cross Reef. With the current buildup of the Chinese military, this could create a situation in the South China Seas that the United States and other international players could not contain.

Although the Chinese do not really have a lawful claim to the reef, by occupying and building it up they hope to present a situation where it will cost more to throw them off than it would to let them stay. Problematically, if allowed to remain, the Chinese have shown that they will continue to expand to other reefs and islands, potentially destabilizing the entire region.

Worse, if the United States conducts the Freedom of Navigation exercises and provokes a military response from the Chinese, it could create an even larger conflict. There is no upside to an armed conflict, even of a limited nature, with China.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
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2 thoughts on “Confrontation in the South China Sea

  1. Normally these kinds of conflicts can -and even must- be solved in international forums and even courts, and hardly by the presence of naval forces from different countries, or whatever. Even during the cold war the international fishing and economical zone between Norway and the USSR was solved by treaties – the classical Iceandic-British Cod Wars in the North Atlantic did really survive even longer – on this point -I think- they did never reach any solution even into our time, and this between two close European economical allies and NATO members, whose coast guard ships did break into each other in high seas in the hottest active days. The four southernmost Kuril islands which were conquered by the USSR in the last days of the Second World War are still an elephant in the room in the Russian-Japanese relations, a solution on which President Putin and the Japanese Prime Minister have opened for a final solution and a territorial treaty, 70 years after the problem did occur. China has its unusual feelings of pride, which is a bit of a problem. Nikita Khrushtchov’s idea of unite the Soviet and Chinese Pacific Navies in the better USSR-PRC days where replied loudly by China that: “China has standing on its knees for centuries, we are an independant nation” – so talks and military presence in this extended “Chinese seas”will be by far easy, and far from it.

  2. The UN needs to embargo this area, until such a time as these islands can vote for themselves as to which soveriengty they would allow to pose as a predominate government over which they would be aligned.

    That would take a great deal more leadership to accomplish than invasion with commercial dictatorship.

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