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The International Dispute in the Spratly Islands - Essay Example

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The International Dispute in the Spratly Islands The international dispute in the South China Sea, particularly over the control of the Spratly Islands, has been brewing for quite a time already. The issue first gained prominence in the 1970s when China and Vietnam had a rift as both laid claims to the Paracel Islands…
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The International Dispute in the Spratly Islands
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"The International Dispute in the Spratly Islands"

Download file to see previous pages The dispute seems to have no signs of abating. In fact, each of the country involved is trying to increase the capabilities of its armed forces. The states involved in the dispute are the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Brunei is also laying claim to some islands in the area but unlike the rest, it has occupied those that it considered as part of its territory. Resolving the issue has become very difficult due to the insistence of the states in different bases of ownership. China, Vietnam and Taiwan are asserting their respective claims on the bases of historical rights. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, on the other hand, claim that they have rights over the territory because of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, especially that which refer to the continental shelves as bases for ownership. A legalistic approach would naturally grant favors to the claims of the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. However, in reality, international law simply cannot be made the basis for the claims while ignoring the historical reasons presented by the other claimants. For China, Vietnam, and Taiwan, “the notion of historical entitlement sits at the foundation of their claims to the Spratly archipelago and is unlikely to dissipate simply because analysts choose to ignore them” (Furtado 386). With different frameworks for asserting claims, resolution of the Spratly Islands dispute has become more difficult. At a glance, it would indeed be surprising why these states risk warm diplomatic relations with each other over tiny islands, some of them uninhabitable, when these are not fit for human activity. The strategic importance of the area, however, does not lie on the islands or the waters but what lies beneath these. While the area may serve as a rich fishing ground and a commercial shipping route, its most vital assets are the rich reserve supply of oil and natural gas. As China sheds most of its socialist economic principles in favor of capitalism, it naturally feels the need to boost its energy capabilities. It sees the Spratly Islands as the solution. Its ambition to be the world’s foremost economic power has prompted it to be the most assertive among the claimants. Vietnam’s market-oriented reforms have also compelled the nation to seek energy resources that it can control. In fact, the only oil well in the area that it owns had started production in 1991. This encouraged it to further hasten oil exploration in the area. The Philippines, which is heavily dependent on oil imports, have also stakes in the Spratly Islands for the same oil and gas interest. According the Oil and Gas Journal article Territorial Disputes Simmer in Areas of South China Sea, “joint exploration with Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Alcorn International near Palawan Island will raise the Philippines annual oil production from the 3,000 b/d produced in 1991 from 7 wells in the South China Sea” (1992). The country is claiming a total of 60 islands in the South China Sea. Both Brunei and Malaysia, although these are oil-producing countries, are also interested in the islands for the same reason. Taiwan, on the other hand, has not stated explicitly any interest in gas or oil, but it considers the area as a strategic ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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