The South China Sea: A Strategic Flashpoint
Technical Report,01 Jun 2018,01 May 2019
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS FORT LEAVENWORTH United States
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The South China Sea SCS is a resource-rich strategic waterway that has steadily grown in global significance. China and its Southeast Asian neighbors have a long, complicated history of overlapping and competing claims of territorial sovereignty in the SCS. The United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea UNCLOS delineates maritime boundaries and the rights afforded to nations within those boundaries. Most nations in the region accept UNCLOS as an authoritative standard while China continues to reference its historical claims, creating an enduring tension that has manifested in Chinas use of military coercion against Vietnam and the Philippines. This regional dispute has garnered world-wide attention due to the SCSs strategic significance and the aggressive means by which China has attempted to assert control in the region. The US Navy routinely executes freedom of navigation operations to challenge excessive maritime claims based on established UNCLOS standards. China views these operations as provocative, and as an excuse for the United States to involve itself in the regional disputes. Chinas displeasure with US presence in the SCS has led to numerous incidents between the Peoples Liberation Army Navy and US Navy warships, including antagonistic maneuvers at dangerously close distances. This monograph analyzes two scenarios in the SCS that could potentially lead to conflict between the United States and China. First, the enduring disputes between China and its neighbors could escalate to the point where the United States gets drawn into the conflict as a third party on behalf of one or multiple Southeast Asian nations. Secondly, a direct conflict between China and the United States could result from Chinas discontentment with the United States execution of freedom of navigation operations in the SCS.
- Government and Political Science