South China Sea Disputes: Conflict in a Global Crossroads Essay examples

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In the Western Pacific, the South China Sea is a global crossroads that holds strategic importance for many nations world wide. The South China Sea stretches from the Taiwan and Luzon Straits in the north to Indonesia and the Strait of Malacca in the south with Vietnam on the west and the Philippines and Borneo on the east. In total size, the South China Sea surpasses the Mediterranean Sea. However, unlike this Near-Eastern comparator, territorial disputes and conflicting claims threaten the movement of global trade through the South China Sea, thus unbalancing regional stability in the Asia-Pacific. Claimants include the bordering coastal countries of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (a.k.a. Taiwan), the…show more content…
Any change in the status quo for these factors has global impacts. First, the South China Sea constitutes the eastern approach to the Strait of Malacca, one of the “world's four most important strategic maritime passages,” and therefore contains the vital SLOCs between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.3 Figure 1. provides a visual representation of the SLOCs running through the South China Sea. “About 25% of the global shipping fleet transits through the region each year, underlining the importance of the South China Sea as an extension of the Malacca chokepoint.”4 That 25% traveling these SLOCs includes over half of the world’s shipping for oil and gas every year.5 Considering the volume of traffic passing through the South China Sea, a disruption of traffic along these SLOCs caused by a claims dispute or even armed conflict will rapidly generate negative global effects. Short of military action, challenges such as natural disasters6 or piracy require an international unified action (or at least, de-conflicted action) from multiple if not all South China Sea claimant nations. Second, the South China Sea is rich in natural resources such as oil, natural gas and fish. Estimates vary wildly in regard to hydrocarbon resources. The PRC claims potential oil deposits in excess of 213 billion barrels while the U.S. Geological Survey estimates a more conservative 28 billion barrels.7 Regardless of which
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