China’s Unilateral Action On South China Sea Threatens Regional Stability – OpEd


China’s aggressive policy to build small islands on the South China Sea, ignoring territorial claims of fellow nations in the region, is hitting Pacific nations at a more visceral level, bringing anxiety over security.

Asia-pacific region remains a flashpoint as China is gradually trying to expand its control over the common sea territories in South East Asia. China’s creation of small military installations, including a 10,000- ft. landing strip, on various tiny atolls in the Western Spratly Islands seems to have ratted Washington to pay more attention on the issue rattling the region for quite some time.

The Pacific countries Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei have long had their own competing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. To complicate the issue further, now China claims over hundreds of mostly uninhabited small islands, reefs, and rocks in the 1.4-million square mile South China Sea. Using traditional symbols to describe one’s position in a given situation, China says it controls the territory within a U-shaped maritime boundary, known as the 9-dash line and also referred to as “the cow’s tongue,” since the line appears in a large curvature far below the mainland.

China claims a whopping 90 percent chunk of the South China Sea. Its maps draw a “nine dash line” to mark its claims, some of which are nearly 1,500 kms from China but close to the coastlines of nations that ring the line, like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. However, China’s claim does not stand up under existing international law, as laid down in the United Nations Law of the Sea. China enjoys such rights because its fishermen have cast their nets in those distant waters for centuries. Those claims give China “indisputable sovereignty” over the land features and waters inside the line, Beijing insisted in a document presented to the UN in 2009. That sovereignty is, in fact, disputed. The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Brunei all claim some or all of the rocks, atolls, reefs, islands, and water that China says belong to it.

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