Tensions Flare in the South China Sea

A Draft from the South China Sea Papers

Tensions have been building in the South China Sea and, if left unattended, could sour relations in the region, prompt a regional arms race, and even worse, spark a military conflict. Encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan with a total of around 1,350,000 square miles, the South China Sea contains over 250 small islands, atolls, cays, shoals, reefs and sandbars, many of which are naturally under water at high tide, and some of which are permanently submerged. The waters of the South China Sea are not only some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes; they are also a repository for valuable natural resources, including fish, minerals, and potentially large deposits of oil and natural gas. Competing territorial claims over parts or all of the South China Sea have been made by China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Bonnie S. Glaser