President-elect Donald Trump told China to keep the US drone which China retrieved which has resulted in another debate on Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, an important geo-political water body and the second busiest sea route in the world, comprising over one-third of world trade. Along with the trade route, the presence of large reserves of oil and natural gas have intensified the conflict. Today, the South China Sea is an international water, and is recognized by the United Nations through the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ratified by all major neighboring countries. The 250 islands, however are subject to competing claims of sovereignty.
Interestingly, that although the South China Sea has remained a zone of conflict, it has never seen militarization to such an extent. The situation has escalated and some experts describe this as “Asia’s biggest and potential cause for an armed conflict.” Many nations, such as Malaysia along with the US (followed by member nations of the ASEAN) argue that without action, the situation will further escalate.