BienDong.Net

Emergence of South China Sea as a Flash Point

Notwithstanding some moves to manage the South China Sea disputes by having a Code of Conduct, the current developments, which are raising the level of tension among the different claimants, do not generate optimism for any positive outcome. An objective examination of the recent activities would suggest that situation is fast moving in the direction of a limited conflict, which would have the potentials of taking the shape of a large conflict with outside powers being drawn into the conflict.

At the outset it is important to state that India has a great stake in the South China Sea. Our entire trade with China, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and 55% of trade with US passes through the South China Sea.

CHINA’S “U-SHAPED LINE” CLAIM IN THE EAST SEA (BIEN DONG) - FORMATION HISTORY AND LEGAL ARGUMENTS

1. Foreword

The East Sea dispute is one of the most complex territorial disputes in the world. The complexity of the East Sea dispute comes from complicated sovereignty claims of many countries for overlapping areas. Moreover, it is not only a dispute on the aspects of international law, on maritime border and sea territory but also involves strategic interests, especially the control of maritime transport routes and the exploitation of marine resources, including oil and gas.

SYSTEM OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES IN EAST SEA (BIEN DONG): REAL SITUATION AND CHARACTERISTICS

The international disputes in the East Sea have drawn the attention of Vietnamese and foreign scholars since the second half of the 1980s in the 20th century, especially after China seized seven underwater reefs in the Truong Sa archipelago (Spratly) in March 1998. Their studies follow three directions:

STRATEGIC PERPECTIVES IN THE EAST SEA (BIEN DONG)

Foreword

The East Sea security is seeing unusual developments as disputes have been pushed to a new level of seriousness. Legal maritime boundaries have been denied, security maintaining mechanisms have been neutralised and the balance of power in this waters has become unstable, threatening to erode other key strategic balances in the whole Western Pacific belt.

EAST SEA (BIEN DONG) DISPUTE - FROM GEOPOLITICAL VIEWS

Whoever rules the World Island commands the World”

Halford J. Mackinder

Tran khanh*

 

Preamble

The dispute over sovereignty in the East Sea, first of all over the Hoang Sa (Pracel or Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, had begun right after World War II. However, it has escalated to a pretty serious level since the end of the first decade of the 21st century as several concerned countries had taken tough actions to claim sovereignty in the area.

PARTIES’ CLAIMS AND LEGAL FOUNDATIONS ON SOVEREIGNTY IN THE EAST SEA (BIEN DONG)

At present, major issues in the East Sea dispute are territorial sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes and overlapping claims of sovereign rights over territorial waters. Besides, recent emerging elements are clashes over the rights of coastal states and other nations that use the sea, mainly between the US and China, regarding military vessels’ activities in exclusive economic zones.

VIETNAM CONTINUOUSLY EXERCISES ITS SOVEREIGNTY OVER HOANG SA, TRUONG SA ARCHIPELAGOS

The Hoang Sa (Paracel) and the Truong Sa (Spratly) are the two archipelagoes to the East of the Vietnamese coast in the East Sea(1). The closest point of the Hoang Sa is about 170 nautical miles from the central city of Da Nang and about 120 nautical miles from the Re island, a near-shore island of Vietnam. While, the Truong Sa is about 250 nautical miles from the Cam Ranh Bay, Nha Trang city, Khanh Hoa province, at its closest point.

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