What’s at stake as U.S. weighs South China Sea patrol




It may be the rainy season, but things are heating up in the South China Sea.

The U.S. and China have been locked in a battle of words since reports surfaced in early October that the U.S. Navy was ready to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea by sending a ship within 12 nautical miles of the fake Chinese islands built on top of reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The dispute has gotten so heated that it’s forced the United States into a difficult position: balancing the interests of allies in the region, such as the Philippines, with respect for China’s legitimate claims and to avoid fraying ties to the fast-growing regional power.

What you need to know:

1. The conflict. Six nations in the region lay claim to parts or all of the Spratly Islands, a collection of reefs, rocks and other natural features. In the last two years, China has begun constructing islands on top of the reefs and claiming territorial seas around them to gain fishing and resource rights to most of the South China Sea.

These disputes have led to violence in the past. In 1974, a conflict between South Vietnam and China led to a shootout in the Paracel Islands, located between Vietnam and China’s Hainan Island. That dispute continues.

Read more: http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/2015/10/17/south-china-sea-dispute-navy-cno-islands/74054582/