Conflict in the South China Sea

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Sphere of influence: A physical region over which a country believes it has economic, military, cultural and political rights. This can extent beyond the borders of the country.

Background to conflict

  • Conflict arose after WWII between China and three ASEAN nations (Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philppines) over the ownership of islands. 
  • The conflict became more intense during the 1990s after oil and gas reserves were tapped.
  • The issue has now gone beyond territorial claims as the South Chin Sea has become the focal point for China-US rivalry. This has led to increased naval presence of both nations.
  • China has responded to the US's instation of a naval presence by creating a naval base on the Spratly Islands. These islands are important economically as they hold oil and gas reserves.
  • China is also artificially extending some islands by building larger bases out of imported sand to extend its territory, which is against UNCLOS law.

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