This paper critically discusses the current petro-politics in the South China Sea with particular focus on the background of events as well as the interplay of the factors that have contributed to the current conflicts in the regions…
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South China Sea is a vast area in the Pacific Ocean that stretches from Singapore to Taiwan and borders mainland china to the North, Philippines to the west, Malaysia to the north east and Indonesia and Vietnam to the south east. South China Sea has remained a major maritime heart of the entire South East Asia region and its strategic location has particularly made it one of the busiest international sea lanes. The geopolitics of the region has been particularly characterized by disputes that dates back to the end of the World War 11 when the bordering states such as Vietnam, mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia began to scramble to occupy the various islands in the region (Burgess, 2003).
Historically the South China Sea region has for a long time been considered to a major flashpoint for regional tensions in the Southeast Asia. Although the conflicts have primarily been territorial and political disputes, the main cause of these political challenges is the scramble for the energy resources in the region. This is particularly because the region is estimated to have as high s 213 billion barrels of oil and this is a huge prize. On the other hand, the region also has n abundant natural gas reserves estimated to be around 266 trillion cubic feet and this is nearly 70% of the regions total petroleum resources.
Since the 1990s, the disputes in the volatile region have increasingly transformed from a purely territorial conflict to a chain of interconnected conflicts involving competitive claims of oil and gas energy reserves as well as the other ocean resources such as fishing. With an estimated oil and gas energy reserves of nearly 28billion barrels according to American experts, the sensitivity of the regions conflicts has significantly impeded any effort to harness these petro energy resources as well as the effective determination of their economic feasibility of the resources in the region. This paper critically discusses the current petro-politics in the South China Sea with particular focus on the background of events as well as the interplay of the factors that have contributed to the current conflicts in the regions. Geopolitical and territorial disputes in the South China Sea The South China petro-politics has largely been characterized by an interstate dispute over territory and sovereignty of the vast resources found in the area particularly in the two islands of Spratlys and Paracels that are claimed by a number of countries in the region. For instance, according to Shen(2002), China claims almost the entire region stretching hundreds of miles arguing that it has a historical right over the area since it has always been an integral part of China for more than 2000 years. On the other hand, Vietnam has been increasingly disputing China’s historical account and the Asia country maintains that China only began to claim sovereignty over the two islands and the surrounding regions in the 1940s. According to Vietnam, both the chains of Islands and their surrounding regions are entirely within its territory and the country has documents to prove that it has been actively ruling Spratys and Paracels islands since the 17th century. The other major claimant of the energy rich region is Philippines which justifies its claims by its close geographical proximity to the two island chains. Both China and Philippines also claim another island known as Huangyan Island which is 100miles away from the Philippines and 500 miles from china(Manning, 2000). Additionally Malaysia and Brunei are now claiming a significant chunk of the South China Sea territory arguing that the region falls within their economic exclusion zones as defined by the UN convention on the law of the sea which was ratified in 1982.Brunei however does not claim any of the Islands that are currently under dispute. History of the conflict In 1947, the then Chinese government
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