China argues that it has a historical claim to the South China Sea, which dates back to naval expeditions back in the 15th century. After World War II, the Japan lost control of the South China Sea, and China immediately reclaimed it. China started drawing a dashed line on maps that included most of the South China Sea called the nine-dash line because it always has nine dashes. This line became China’s official claim to the Sea. In general, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) determines borders at sea and who is allowed to make use of what territories of the coast. Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the area within 200 miles of a country’s coast belongs to that country. In 1973, after the UN law established EEZs, China ignored and reaffirmed its Nine-Dash Line, refusing to clarify the boundaries presented by the line  and rejecting other countries’ claims, including Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Indonesia.  Since then, tensions have circled around who rightfully owns the South China Sea. The dispute has centered on the Spratly Islands, an archipelago at the heart of the South China Sea. Currently, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam claim a portion of the Spratly Islands. They’ve protected their claims by putting ports, buildings, and even people on these islands.But the Spratlys are very important, because whichever country can claim them can extend its EEZ to include the islands, and gain miles of sovereign territory at the same time. Broad Recent History of the IssueDisputes regarding territory and jurisdiction in certain regions in the South China Sea continue to strain relations between China and other countries in Southeast Asia, which has the potential to  an escalation in military actions. To protect its interests in the region, the United States has questioned China’s territorial claims efforts by conducting freedom of navigation operations, thus, increasing support for the Southeast Asian countries. In recent years, satellite images have shown China’s increased efforts to reclaim land in the South China Sea by pumping sand out of ships, physically increasing the size of islands or creating altogether new islands. In addition to dumping sand onto existing reefs, China has built military installations, ports, and airstrips—particularly in the Spratly Islands.  China has also has been accused of militarizing  the islands in the middle of the South China Sea. Think Tanks in different parts of the world believe that China is expanding its military presence in an effort to increase their influence in the region of the South China Sea. This has prompted several other countries, such as Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia to militarize islands that are currently under their control,The conflict in the South China sea includes many issues, based on the different ways the countries are using the sea and want to gain or keep control over the sea. This conflict clearly includes sovereignty, but further encompasses military/power, as well as the economy through trade. SovereigntyThe conflict, largely associated with China’s expansion, includes different violations of sovereignty. The expansion of land, either artificially or by taking control of islands, can infringe on territories of other countries. China has been known to take control of islands by creating blockades and by that preventing supplies to reach the people on these islands. The chinese claim of ownership through the nine-dash line is a severe violation of sovereignty. Further, China released passports based on this self declared border.  Most of the islands are not inhabited. That means, that there is a lack of an indigenous population, which makes a historical claim by nations of sovereignty and ownership nearly impossible. The EEZ has been used by countries in the past to keep power over certain nearby islands. In December 2012, China had a conflict with Vietnam regarding the Paracel Islands. China had claimed control over the Paracel Islands based on the oil and fishing activity near the island, which sparked protests in Vietnam. This conflict evolved into a naval standoff between the two countries. This is not the first time these two countries have a conflict over these islands. The desire for control over these territories had military consequences both in 1978 and 1988, where naval conflicts ended with dozens of military personnel died. China maintained control over the Paracel Islands both times.  One of the main reasons for these repeated infringements of sovereignty is the natural resources in the South China Sea. According to the World Bank, the South China sea holds proven oil reserves of at least seven billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. These natural resources could be tremendous additions to the economies of smaller countries like the Philippines, Vietnam or Malaysia, or it can secure a certain energy independence for China. Based on the desires for these resources, major Chinese energy companies have already begun drilling in deep water off the southern coast. The government has protected these drilling sites against outside threats, for example in May 2014, where it fired water cannons at vietnamese approaching the drilling rig.Different countries affected and involved also put different annual fishing bans in place. This gives a reason for arrests of fishermen and it is a further convenient proxy towards sovereignty claims that is considered legitimate towards the enforcement of marine resource protection. China claims a historical legitimacy of the South China Sea. Several fishing activities, survey expeditions, and naval patrols by China date back as early as the 15th century. This claim is in direct conflict with the borders declared by UNCLOS since 1994.   TradeCurrently, 30% of global maritime trade moves through the South China Sea, being worth about $5.3 trillion in terms of goods.  This includes an enormous amount of oil, and $1.5 trillion worth of trade with the United States. The waters also contain profitable fisheries that account for around 10 percent of all global fisheries. The large amount of fisher boats increases a risk of conflict based on the lack of clarity which boats belong to who. Although the dispute is driven by territorial competition, all countries want open sea routes. There is a common benefits from the free flow of goods, regionally as well as internationally.  While the probability that China would close off trade is very low, the United States would be skeptical in allowing China the control over the global economy.From China’s perspective, the US itself has that ability, because of its naval dominance. The Chinese also suspect that the current global structure is engineered to primarily serve Western interests. It comes by no surprise, that China is seeking greater control over the waterways it relies on for economic survival.In theory, both nations understand the need for cooperation. However, in practice they often treat each other as potential threats or competitors. MilitaryThe military involvement is the source and a large aspect of this conflict. This can go all the way from the military expansion the islands are used for, over the use of military to take ownership over land, to the attempted establishment of military control over the airspace. The conflict does not only affect the countries in the region, but also the United States of America. The US has large military interests in the region, towards protecting trade and based on its allies. The expansion of military bases by China in the direction of the US and with the intention to seize military control of the South China Sea, the US’ presence in south asia is in jeopardy. The United States has an interests in maintaining the freedom of navigation in the region, and secure lines of naval communication. It has supported an agreement on a binding code of conduct, and other confidence-building measures. The artificial expansion of territory by China mentioned previously, is China’s action of building islands. On the islands, made up of sand and other sediments, China has constructed port facilities, military buildings and airstrips. These buildings can, and most likely will, be used to enable a chinese air and sea patrol in the area. Vietnam and Malaysia have led regional military buildups and increased arms trade with countries like Russia and India, while the Philippines doubled its defense budget in 2011 and pledged five-year joint military exercises with the United States. The Philippines also embarked on a modernization program costing roughly $1 billion that will rely heavily on U.S. sales of cutters and potentially fighter jets.SolutionsIn the past, different organizations have tried to solve this conflict. For once, the International Tribunal of Law of the Sea has been used. However, the selective usage of this organization in light of the potential domestic political ramifications of appearing conciliatory.Another option is the use of the UN, which has also been done in the past. However, different mechanisms for arbitration provided by the UN have been rejected repeatedly by the UN. The use of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is also possible. It has drafted a six-point statement in the past that attempted to solve the issue. However, this made no reference to specific incidents, and only outlined an agreement to draft and implement a regional code of conduct, respect international law, and exercise self-restraint.The last option is the use of bilateral agreements. China and Vietnam have managed to cooperate on a common fishery zone in the Tonkin Gulf, where the two countries have delineated claims and regulated fishing. However, oil development has remained a highly contentious issue, as both Vietnam and the Philippines have gone ahead with gas exploration projects.QuestionsHow can ownership over this region be legally and permanently declared?To what extent is the artificial expansion of chinese territory legal?Is it necessary or appropriate to set some form of control over the air space in the affected region?How can the continuation of international trade occur for economic stability even if further conflicts arise in the South China Sea?Works Citedhttps://www.cfr.org/interactives/global-conflict-tracker#!/conflict/territorial-disputes-in-the-south-china-sea http://www.cfr.org/energyenvironment/global-oceans-regime/p21035 https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/south-china-sea-tensions https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/07/30/world/asia/what-china-has-been-building-in-the-south-china-sea.html https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-china-islands/china-builds-new-military-facilities-on-south-china-sea-islands-think-tank-idUSKBN19L02J https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luTPMHC7zHYhttp://www.thepach.com/anti-china-rallies-have-been-held-in-vietnam/https://cpianalysis.org/2017/12/01/geography-matters-in-the-south-china-sea/https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/15/world/asia/south-china-sea-dispute-arbitration-explained.html https://thediplomat.com/2012/12/u-s-increasing-military-presence-in-the-philippines/ http://globalnation.inquirer.net/34797/china-rejects-ph-bid-to-bring-shoal-dispute-to-international-court https://secure.www.cfr.org/southeast-asia/aseans-six-point-principles-south-china-sea/p28915http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/20/us-asean-sea-idUSBRE86J09W20120720 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/guangxisessions/2009-08/21/content_9393908.htm http://csis.org/files/publication/twq12springbuszynski.pdf

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